Klobuchar is the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, introduced new legislation to crack down on monopolies that violate antitrust law. The Monopolization Deterrence Act would give the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to seek civil penalties for monopolization offenses under the antitrust laws, a power they currently do not have. The bill was introduced with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
“We have a major monopoly problem in this country. So when federal enforcers uncover illegal monopolistic conduct, they need to act decisively to make sure it stops. But the threat of an injunction isn’t always enough to deter this unlawful conduct from happening in the first place. Dominant companies need to be put on notice that there will be serious financial consequences for illegal monopolistic behavior,” Klobuchar said. “Our legislation will increase the ability of the Justice Department and the FTC to deter companies from engaging in monopolistic practices that hurt competition, consumers, and innovation in our economy.”
Specifically, the Monopolization Deterrence Act would:
- Enable the Department of Justice and the FTC to seek civil monetary penalties, in addition to existing remedies, for violations of section 2 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. 2);
- Deter future violations by providing for penalties of up to 15 percent of the violator’s total U.S. revenues or 30 percent of the violator’s U.S. revenues in the affected markets; and
- Ensure that the two agencies work together to create guidelines for how they would exercise their penalty authority considering a number of relevant factors.
The legislation has the support of leading national consumer welfare and antitrust policy organizations Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge, and American Antitrust Institute.
“We need to make sure we have effective enforcement tools to deter dominant corporations from engaging in anti-competitive, monopolistic practices that harm the marketplace and consumers,” said George Slover, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports. “Senator Klobuchar’s legislation will put new teeth into our antitrust laws by empowering enforcers and courts to impose significant financial penalties when a corporation abuses its dominance in the marketplace.”
“Section 2 monopolization cases are more difficult to bring than other cases, and if the government wins at court, it usually can do no more than stop the offending company from engaging in the same anticompetitive behavior in the future,” said Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge. “Adding monetary penalties as a percentage of a company’s U.S. revenue could help deter anticompetitive conduct and give the antitrust enforcement agencies more leverage to promote competition in these types of cases.”
“Senator Klobuchar has been a leader in smart and constructive legislative antitrust reforms. Her proposed bill to strengthen U.S. monopolization law provides for needed expansion of federal remedies to help deter anticompetitive abuses. This initiative should garner strong bipartisan support,” said American Antitrust Institute President Diana Moss.
In her role as Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee 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 telecommunications, agriculture, and pharmaceutical industries. In June, she led efforts to obtain details about possible FTC antitrust investigations into Amazon and Facebook and possible Justice Department antitrust investigations into Google and Apple. In the letters, the senators requested information regarding the existence and scope of the potential investigations. In April, Klobuchar and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sent a letter to the FTC to take action in response to concerns regarding potential privacy, data security, and antitrust violations involving online platforms. They also called on the FTC to provide additional transparency into its ongoing investigations to ensure that consumers are protected from harmful conduct relating to digital markets.
Klobuchar has also been an outspoken voice in opposing anticompetitive mergers and has introduced legislation to help prevent them. In June, Klobuchar and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced new bipartisan legislation to ensure that antitrust authorities have the resources they need to protect consumers. The Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act would update merger filing fees for the first time since 2001, lower the burden on small and medium-sized businesses, ensure larger deals bring in more income, and raise enough revenue so that taxpayer dollars aren’t required to fund necessary increases to agency enforcement budgets.
Klobuchar leads the Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act to restore the original purpose of the Clayton Antitrust Act to promote competition and protect American consumers. The bill would strengthen the current legal standard to help stop harmful consolidation that may materially lessen competition. It would clarify that a merger could violate the statute if it gives a company “monopsony” power to unfairly lower the prices it pays or wages it offers because of lack of competition among buyers or employers. The bill further strengthens the law to guard against harmful “mega-mergers” and deals that substantially increase market concentration, shifting the burden to the merging companies to prove that their consolidation does not harm competition. She also introduced the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act which would update existing law to reflect the current economy and provide agencies with better information post-merger to ensure that merger enforcement is meeting its goals. 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. She introduced both bills in February.