Robert Gertner on Revising the Guidelines
The stated purpose of the DOJ/FTC Horizontal Merger Guidelines is to “reduce the uncertainty associated with enforcement of the antitrust laws.” The Guidelines have had limited success in achieving this goal. They generally succeed in two important dimensions and fail in one. First, the Guidelines lay out a five step analysis consisting of market definition, market shares, potential adverse effects, entry, and efficiencies. The procedure is generally consistent with practice, it is a reasonable way to parse the set of issues, and thus provides some real guidance. Second, the Guidelines explain how the Agencies view the economic issues associated with each of these five steps and define broad standards. This is also useful. The Guidelines describe, for example, that the Agencies evaluate entry on a timely, likely and sufficiency standard and explain the meaning of these standards. This type of content helps parties understand the Agencies’ approach and can reduce uncertainty. There are places where these standards are appropriate and reflect practice and other places where they can be improved.