Antitrust Regulation by Intimidation
The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission’s proposed revisions to the merger guidelines represent the Biden administration’s latest effort to bypass Congress and the courts to rewrite a major area of law. These changes would increase the cost and uncertainty that businesses face when considering mergers—and damage the agencies’ reputations.
Since 1968, Justice and the FTC have issued guidelines to help companies understand when a proposed merger might raise antitrust concerns. The guidelines are a nonbinding public statement that describes how the agencies will approach the enforcement of merger laws. They have been updated from time to time to reflect changes in the law and improved economic understanding about the likely effect mergers will have on competition. They are neither a definitive statement of law nor binding on courts.