During a Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee oversight hearing on Tuesday, the US’s top antitrust enforcers asked Congress for more money to continue their ambitious enforcement strategy, Bloomberg reported.
Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general for antitrust, said the Justice Department would litigate more mergers this year than any fiscal year on record and remains “committed to bringing difficult cases.” Kanter’s testimony came the day after a federal judge rejected the department’s bid to block UnitedHealth’s $7.8 billion acquisition of Change Healthcare Inc., dealing a blow to the division’s aggressive agenda.
“While I am proud of the work we are doing, we lack the resources to fully address these challenges,” Kanter said, pointing out that the antitrust division has 350 fewer people today than it did in 1979.
Lina Khan, Chair of the FTC testified that in its monopolization case against Meta, the commission is “outgunned one to 10.” Khan said vigorous antitrust enforcement is critical to economic growth, adding that when industries become more consolidated, “prices rise, wages fall, and our markets become more fragile and less resilient.”
She said that the agency has had “significant success with at least six mergers being abandoned due to an FTC lawsuit.”
The abandoned deals include Lockheed Martin Corp.’s proposed acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. and Nvidia Corp.’s deal to buy Softbank Group Corp.’s ARM. Three hospital groups also quit plans to merge as did Great Outdoors Group, the closely-held owner of Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, which sought to buy Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings.
Republican senators criticized Khan for what they described as the politicization of the FTC. Mike Lee of Utah, the top Republican on the subcommittee, needled her for being willing to “sacrifice actual enforcement for flashy headlines.”
“Getting good press isn’t enough,” Lee said. “What little we have seen from the FTC is legally questionable and ill considered.”
Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson the two republican FTC commissioners submitted a statement disagreeing with parts of the testimony approved by the three Democratic commissioners. Phillips and Wilson said the majority misrepresented the agency’s work under Khan and complained about an “unfortunate departure from the agency’s tradition of working towards bipartisan consensus.”
Chair of the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, Amy Klobuchar praised Khan and Kanter. She also reinforced the need for new legislation, such as her American Innovation and Choice Online Act, to give the FTC and DOJ new rules and authority to prevent the largest US technology companies from abusing their market dominance.
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