Chevron and Administrative Antitrust, Redux


In 2014, I published a pair of articles—Administrative Antitrust and Chevron and the Limits of Administrative
Antitrust—that argued that the Supreme Court’s recent antitrust and administrative law jurisprudence was pushing antitrust law out of the judicial domain and into the domain of regulatory agencies. The first article focused on the Court’s then-recent antitrust cases and argued that the Court, which had abrogated most areas of federal common law, had shown a clear preference for handling common law-like antitrust law on a statutory or regulatory basis where possible. The second article evaluated and rejected the Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC’s”) long-held belief that its interpretations of the FTC Act do not receive Chevron deference. This Article will revisit those articles in light of the past decade of Supreme Court precedent. In reviewing those articles, this Article will argue that, for the same reasons that the Court seemed likely in 2013 to embrace an administrative approach to antitrust, today it is likely to view such approaches with great skepticism unless they are undertaken on a cautious and incrementalistic basis. That is, the Court will embrace an administrative approach to antitrust where it will prove less indeterminate than judicially defined antitrust law. If the FTC approaches antitrust law aggressively, decreasing the predictability of the law, the Court seems likely to close the door on administrative antitrust for reasons sounding in both administrative and antitrust law. This conclusion differs from other current work examining the Commission’s authority—such as on major questions grounds or whether the Commission has substantive “unfair methods of competition” rulemaking authority—in that it is primarily based on the Court’s views on the relationship of antitrust and administrative law.