To ensure a future of shared prosperity for consumers, workers, and businesses large and small, America must guarantee open and fair competition. Our history shows that competitive markets support business growth, innovation, and an entrepreneurial spirit, leaving room for small, independent businesses to flourish alongside larger corporations. Competition means that businesses offer high-quality products and services at fair market prices. It helps workers get fairer wages and better working conditions. And competitive markets encourage start-ups and business creation, while forcing existing companies to innovate and become more efficient. When businesses and entrepreneurs can freely compete, our economy grows stronger.
Unfortunately, America has a major monopoly and competition problem. In fact, two-thirds of U.S. industries became more concentrated between 1997 and 2012. This is a problem that touches the lives of every American and affects our entire economy, with market concentration having increased in various industries from pharmaceuticals to big tech, agriculture to telecommunications. Reduced competition can mean higher prices, lower product and service quality, depressed wages, and less innovation for millions of American consumers and workers. This can have an especially devastating impact during times of economic uncertainty. It is a problem that we can no longer afford to ignore.
To ensure our future economic prosperity, America must confront its monopoly power problem and restore competitive markets. That means we need more effective congressional oversight to promote vigorous antitrust enforcement, while giving federal enforcers the resources and tools they need. And we must update our antitrust laws for the twenty-first century to protect the competitive markets that are the lifeblood of our economy.
We don’t have to choose between having successful American companies and having effective antitrust enforcement. We can, and must, have both. Strong competition policy is necessary to build a vibrant economy that works for consumers, for workers, for entrepreneurs, for local communities, and for companies, large and small.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Effective oversight over enforcement of the antitrust laws. During my time as Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate’s Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights Subcommittee, I have worked to ensure that the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission actively enforce the antitrust laws and protect consumers and our national economy against excessive consolidation and harmful anticompetitive conduct. I successfully worked with Senator Mike Lee of Utah in a bipartisan effort to push the Department of Justice to ensure that consumers could access video content over the internet as a condition of the Department’s review of Charter Communications’ acquisition of Time-Warner Cable. After Senator Lee and I raised concerns that Canadian Pacific’s proposed acquisition of Norfolk Southern could harm small shippers, Canadian Pacific abandoned the transaction. For years, I also led calls for investigations into the business practices of the Big Tech companies, and I strongly support the federal and state antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook. And to protect consumers and the American economy during the pandemic, I pushed the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to vigorously enforce existing antitrust laws. With hundreds of thousands of small businesses shut down, the pandemic was a time to increase antitrust enforcement, not relax it.
- Funding effective enforcement. Antitrust laws provide the first line of defense against mergers and transactions that harm consumers and competition. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission enforce those laws, but they need the tools to meet today’s challenges. Our competition enforcers don’t have enough resources to effectively take on multi-billion dollar—much less trillion-dollar—companies. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act with Senator Grassley, which increases the filing fees for the biggest mergers and provides additional resources for the antitrust agencies that have been underfunded for years. In addition, I introduced the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act, which resets the funding level for antitrust enforcement and enables the antitrust agencies to fully meet their obligations to protect competition and American consumers in the twenty-first century economy.
- Updating the antitrust laws to protect and foster competitive markets. As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, I am working to restore the original purpose of our antitrust laws: promote competition and protect American consumers. With rapid consolidation and anticompetitive practices across a broad spectrum of industries, we need to update America’s antitrust laws for our modern economy and crack down on anticompetitive mergers and conduct. That’s why, in February 2021, I introduced the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act to give federal enforcers the resources they need to do their jobs, strengthen prohibitions on anticompetitive conduct and mergers, and make additional reforms to improve enforcement. It also improves the agencies’ ability to assess the impact of merger settlements, creates a new division at the Federal Trade Commission to look back at old mergers, and requires in-depth studies of new issues. The bill’s broad range of reforms will improve antitrust enforcement and strengthen our nation’s economy.
- Preventing harmful consolidation. Consolidation within an industry can stifle competition, increase consumer prices, reduce employment options for workers, and reduce incentives to innovate and start new businesses. The American economy is currently experiencing a wave of consolidation across many of our industries, including telecommunications, airlines, beer, agriculture, hospitals and many more. The Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act restores the original purpose of the Clayton Antitrust Act to prevent the harms that excessive consolidation can inflict on competition and consumers. It updates the legal standard to strengthen enforcers’ ability to prevent mergers that risk harming competition or are likely to create a monopoly or a monopsony. In addition, the legislation shifts the legal burden from enforcers to the merging companies for certain categories of mergers that pose significant risks to competition, including mergers that significantly increase market concentration, acquisitions by dominant companies of competitors, and the largest mega-mergers. The merging company would then have to prove that the merger does not create an appreciable risk of materially lessening competition or tend to create a monopoly or monopsony.
- Combating anticompetitive business practices. American antitrust law enforcement efforts against powerful companies have lagged behind steps taken by other countries. Harmful exclusionary practices by dominant companies—like refusing to deal with rivals, restrictive contracting, and predatory pricing—reduce competition and harm consumers, workers, and businesses. For decades, courts have also interpreted our antitrust laws in ways that restrict the steps enforcers can take to limit this kind of conduct in our economy. The Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act prohibits conduct that disadvantages competitors or limits their opportunity to compete, which presents a risk of harming competition. Anticompetitive companies need to be put on notice that there will be serious financial consequences for harmful anticompetitive behavior. That is why my legislation gives the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission the authority to seek civil penalties for anticompetitive exclusionary conduct offenses under the antitrust laws, a power they currently do not have. These proposals will increase the ability of federal enforcers to deter large companies from leveraging their power over markets to hurt competition, consumers, and innovation in our economy.
- Addressing competition issues in key industries. I continue to work to keep our markets competitive so that consumers, small businesses, and workers benefit and not monopolies. We are seeing industry consolidation across much of our economy. We see it in agriculture and health care and in online travel--where consumers see many travel sites without realizing that most of them are owned by two companies. We see it in everything from cat food to caskets.
- Big Tech. Although consumers and businesses use many of the products and services provided by large technology companies, the size and rapid growth of these companies has given them unprecedented control over our personal data and market power. We see this in advertising, e-commerce, mobile applications and operating systems, and many others. Many of these companies have also leveraged their wealth to buy out emerging competitors before they become real threats. They have also used their power to limit the ability of rivals to compete. My Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act enhances the ability of competition enforcers to hold these technology companies accountable. As news publishers are being crushed by big digital platforms, we must give them the tools needed to collectively negotiate. My bipartisan legislation with Senator Kennedy, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, will benefit the entire news industry by leveling the playing field so that local media outlets can negotiate fair treatment, and it will reinvigorate the free and independent press that serves our local communities and plays a vital role in our democracy.
- Pharmaceuticals. Competition guarantees that consumers pay fair prices, while driving product improvements and innovation. This is especially true in prescription drug markets. Over the years, however, large branded pharmaceutical companies have come up with a number of strategies to delay competition and keep drug prices sky high. When companies do not play by the rules, consumers pay the price. With Senator Grassley, I called on the Federal Trade Commission to stop anticompetitive actions in the pharmaceutical industry that raise prescription drug costs. Together, we introduced the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act to help end the practice of brand-name drug manufacturers paying off their less-expensive generic competitors to stay out of the market. We introduced the Stop STALLING Act to increase access to affordable prescription drugs by reducing the incentives for large pharmaceutical companies to file sham petitions with the Food and Drug Administration that interfere with the approval of generics drugs. These bills would save consumers and the government hundreds of millions of dollars. With a bipartisan group of senators, I also introduced the CREATES Act, which became law in December 2019, to end tactics that some brand-name companies use to prevent generic drug manufacturers from being able to receive approval for their products and compete in the market.