As ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar questioned the Antitrust Division head on reports that the Justice Department’s
Antitrust investigation into U.S. automakers appears to have less to do with protecting competition than with intimidating parties that don’t fall into line with the Trump Administration’s plan to relax emission standards
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) pressed the head of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division, Assistant Attorney General, Makan Delrahim on reports that the DOJ is investigating four automakers for negotiating with California regulators to set California fuel emission standards that would be more stringent than what the Trump administration intends to impose.
“Quite frankly, the antitrust investigation into these automakers appears to have less to do with protecting competition than with intimidating parties that don’t fall into line with the Trump Administration’s plan to relax emission standards. A letter from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation to the California Air Resources Board only bolsters the perception that this antitrust investigation is part of a broader effort by the Administration to promote its preferred emissions standard and bully those who get in the way.
“For years, both antitrust agencies have talked about the applying the ‘consumer welfare standard.’ This investigation looks more like enforcement guided by a ‘corporate welfare standard’ for oil companies and light truck manufacturers.
“I have questions about how this investigation regarding the gas mileage standards was initiated and why the Division decided to use its limited resources to pursue it. As a matter of prosecutorial discretion, I find it hard to believe that an investigation into four automakers trying to navigate a shifting and highly politicized regulatory landscape is the best way to protect competition and consumers when we are seeing consolidation in so many industries.
“Sometimes why you do something is as important as what you do.”
For video footage of Klobuchar’s remarks, click HERE.
In her role 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 telecommunications, agriculture, and pharmaceutical industries.
Today, In light of ongoing consolidation in the pharmaceutical sector, Klobuchar led a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons calling on the agency to closely scrutinize pharmaceutical mergers that raise competition issues. In the letter, Klobuchar and her colleagues raised concerns about the potential impact of these proposed transactions on pharmaceutical innovation and the potential harm to consumers that may come from the increased negotiating leverage of merging companies. The senators also urged the FTC to take all necessary steps to ensure that the terms of any consent decrees under which pharmaceutical mergers are allowed to proceed are effective in addressing threats to competition.
In August, Klobuchar introduced the Monopolization Deterrence Act to crack down on monopolies that violate antitrust law. The legislation would give the DOJ and FTC the authority to seek civil penalties for monopolization offenses under the antitrust laws, a power they currently do not have. 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.
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. Klobuchar introduced both bills in February.