As Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, Klobuchar introduces the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act to update and strengthen important merger enforcement tools
Bill would provide resources and information antitrust enforcers need to promote competition and protect consumers
WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, today introduced the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act. Antitrust enforcement agencies need adequate tools and resources to address the threat of economic concentration, promote competition, and protect consumers. The Merger Enforcement Improvement Act would update those existing laws to reflect the current economy and provide agencies with better information post-merger to ensure that merger enforcement is meeting its goals. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) are cosponsors of the bill.
“Economic concentration is driving up costs for consumers and driving down innovation in business. We need more competition, and we need antitrust enforcement that meets the demands of the 21st century economy,” Klobuchar said. “Enacting these reforms would be a good step toward making sure consumers are protected.”
“When a handful of mega-corporations have virtually all the power in a given industry, consumers pay the price,” Franken said. “That’s why I’ve consistently urged regulators to heavily scrutinize how proposed mergers and acquisitions will affect consumers and competition before they’re allowed to move forward—particularly in the telecommunications and media industries. But when deals are permitted to move forward, regulators must have the necessary tools to better understand the effects of such transactions. Our bill would help them do just that.”
“Amidst crushing private sector consolidation, Congress has failed to modernize laws to keep pace with the evolution of our industries,” Blumenthal said. “This long-overdue bill empowers antitrust enforcement bodies with the resources necessary to ensure our economy remains competitive, innovation continues to thrive, and consumers are protected.”
“The increasing consolidation of industries poses serious challenges to a strong economy that works for the middle class. The economy works best for American consumers when anti-trust laws ensure a level, competitive playing field for companies big and small,” Booker said. “This bill will strengthen anti-trust enforcement to help better protect Americans’ right to consumer choice.”
“Enforcement of America’s antitrust laws must be strengthened to keep pace with the current wave of mergers throughout the economy,” said Durbin. “I’m proud to join this effort to give regulators the tools they need to protect consumers and keep competition strong in America.”
"Strong anti-trust regulation is a cornerstone of ensuring that consumers in Hawaii and across the country get a fair deal. This bill provides tools to help increase public information and accountability once mergers are approved, and updates enforcement to reflect our 21st century economy," said Hirono.
“After a wave of consolidation across many sectors of our economy, we need to better understand the impacts of these deals on consumers and choice. This legislation helps to evaluate post-merger effects and bolsters the Justice Department’s antitrust division so that officials can better understand future proposed mergers,” said Markey.
“Our outdated antitrust laws are bad for our economy because they allow huge corporations to merge together, drive up their prices, and take advantage of regular people who too often have no way to push back,” said Gillibrand. “Congress has a responsibility to prevent huge corporations from preying on consumers, and I am proud to support this legislation to finally modernize our antitrust laws. I urge my colleagues to pass this legislation as quickly as possible, and I will continue to do everything I can to fight for consumers in New York.”
“These reforms will strengthen and modernize antitrust enforcement at a time when big corporations keep getting bigger and the powerful are gaining more power through market consolidation,” said Baldwin. “With stronger antitrust enforcement we can level the playing field, create more competition and lower costs for consumers on everyday expenses.”
Consumers Union, Public Knowledge, and the American Antitrust Institute also support the legislation.
“We are greatly encouraged to see lawmakers recognize key issues in merger enforcement that have emerged over the last several years. The elements of the proposed bill go to resources, process, and substance — all of which will support more vigorous enforcement," said Diana Moss, President of the American Antitrust Institute.
"Public Knowledge supports Senator Klobuchar's Merger Enforcement Improvements Act of 2017. Antitrust laws are one of the key tools the government has to protect consumers and competition,” said Philip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge. “Antitrust authorities need more resources and better data to improve antitrust enforcement, craft effective remedies, and prevent harm to consumers and competition, and this legislation is a positive step toward achieving those goals."
"This bill makes several constructive improvements to keep merger law strong and up to date. The proposal to collect concrete information on the actual results of divestitures and other conditions merging companies agree to will help make merger enforcement more accountable to the public for preventing the harms to competition and consumer choice that mergers can leave in their wake. We appreciate Senator Klobuchar's leadership in working to ensure that consumer interests remain at the forefront of merger considerations,” said George Slover, Senior Policy Counsel at Consumers Union.
Antitrust laws serve as the first line of defense against anti-consumer and anticompetitive mergers and transactions. The Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission enforce those laws, but they need the tools to meet today’s challenges. This bill would modernize antitrust enforcement by improving the agencies’ ability to assess the impact of merger settlements, requiring studies of new issues, adjusting merger filing fees to reflect the 21st century economy, and providing adequate funding for antitrust agencies to meet their obligations to protect American consumers.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar has championed efforts to protect consumers, promote competition, and fight consolidation in several industries including the agriculture, telecommunications, and pharmaceutical industry. She has led the fight against anticompetitive conduct in the pharmaceutical industry that increase prescription drug prices, including authoring multiple pieces of legislation, including the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act to prevent abusive tactics that prevent affordable drugs from entering the market and the bipartisan Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act to crack down on anti-competitive pay-offs in which branded companies pay their generic competitors not to compete as part of a patent settlement. She has called for strong antitrust review and enforcement to protect consumers from mergers that raise prices or harm competition, including the Comcast-Time Warner Cable, AT&T-Time Warner Inc., and Anheuser-Busch/Miller-Coors and consolidation in the agricultural industry and the online travel industry. She has also led the call to protect the independence and integrity of the antitrust enforcement agencies from political interference by the Trump administration.