Section 2 Symposium: Tad Lipsky on Framing the Debate

When the Justice Department issued its Unilateral Conduct Report last September, it became an instant sensation not primarily because of its content, but because of a strident public critique issued by three FTC Commissioners, including now-Chairman Leibowitz. The three (Harbour, Leibowitz and Rosch, hereinafter “HLR”) accused the Antitrust Division of placing “a thumb on the scales in favor of firms with monopoly . . . power”, and of adopting “drastic changes” comprising “a legal regime [that places] . . . the interests of firms that enjoy monopoly or near monopoly power . . .ahead of the interests of consumers”. Thundering on, HLR savaged the DOJ Report as a “blueprint for radically weakened enforcement of Section 2”, accusing DOJ of “seriously overstat[ing] the level of . . . consensus” on Section 2, and of improperly glorifying economics as “tantamount to the law itself”. Although signed by three of the four Commission members, the Statement was not presented as a position of the FTC, leaving observers to wonder about the internal process that produced the HLR statement and what it reflected about the views of the various Bureaus and other key Commission staff. For FTC/DOJ relations, already rocked by a long series of public disagreements over a string of antitrust issues (reverse-payment Hatch-Waxman settlements, price squeezes), this was a new low, unprecedented in the living memory of the antitrust bar.

Read the full piece here.