US FTC Hints At Tougher Stance On Big Tech Small Mergers

US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff presented data on Wednesday, September 15, on small acquisitions by five big technology companies, and the agency scrapped guidelines on vertical mergers which combine a company with a supplier, reported Reuters.

Following a study begun during the Trump administration, the FTC staff found that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft together had 616 acquisitions from 2010 to 2019 that were above US$1 million but too small to be reported to antitrust agencies, among other findings.

Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, a Democrat, said looking at deals individually was inadequate. “I think of serial acquisitions as a Pac-Man strategy. Each individual merger viewed independently may not seem to have significant impact. But the collective impact of hundreds of smaller acquisitions, can lead to monopolistic behavior,” she said.

Commissioner Christine Wilson, a Republican, called for a similar study on health care mergers.

Related: FTC Announces Agenda For Next Meeting, Focusing On Big Tech Acquisitions

The FTC sued Facebook last year, alleging the social media company broke antitrust law. It has asked a judge to undo Facebook’s deals for photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp although both were reviewed by the agency.

The FTC, which began holding open meetings after progressive Lina Khan became chair in June, also voted to withdraw Trump-era guidelines regarding vertical deals. Republicans Wilson and Noah Phillips opposed the decision.

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.