As ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Klobuchar led a hearing examining concentration and competition in the US Economy
WASHINGTON – Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), in her role as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, led a hearing examining concentration and competition in the US economy titled, “Does America Have a Monopoly Problem?: Examining Concentration and Competition in the US Economy.”
“I don’t think concentration of power is abstract. I think it’s real. It’s reflected in consumer prices, it’s reflected in a lack of innovation, it’s reflected in the smaller number of startups and small businesses that you see in certain industries, because there is so much consolidation of power,” Klobuchar said in her opening remarks.
“…our economy is still in the wave of corporate mergers. Annual merger filings at the antitrust agencies have increased by more than 50 percent in the last five years. Since 2008, American firms have engaged in more than $10 trillion in acquisitions. A record $2.5 trillion in mergers were announced in just the first half of 2018,” Klobuchar continued.
“When you look at the history of our country… Every step of the way, people saw this in this country, not as some partisan issue—they saw it as a way to encourage capitalism, encourage entrepreneurship, and encourage innovation.
“If you’re really going to do something about antitrust… It has to mean that you’re willing to put the resources into it, which is why I’m leading the bill to increase the fees, which will be a drop in the bucket for the mega mergers, and I hope we will at some point get bipartisan support since it’s not on the back of taxpayers, so that we can give the agencies, the FTC and the Justice Department… the resources that they need to be as sophisticated as the corporate titans that are proposing these mergers.
“That’s one thing that I think will help. The second is to finally look at changing the laws and making them as sophisticated, again, as our changing economy. We have proposed shifting the burden for the bigger deals, so that in fact the companies would have to prove that it does not materially decrease competition, and changing some of the language in the standard and then looking at monopsonies as a factor.”
Click here for video of Klobuchar’s remarks at the hearing.
Earlier Tuesday, the Center for American Progress hosted Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and the Honorable Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, for a conversation on the state of competition in the U.S. economy and its implications for our society. Klobuchar and Reich discussed several pieces of legislation to modernize antitrust enforcement, including Klobuchar’s Merger Enforcement Improvement Act and the Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act.
Click here for video of the conversation at the Center for American Progress.
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 industries. She has led the fight against anticompetitive conduct in the pharmaceutical industry that increase prescription drug prices, sponsoring 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 and Biosimilars 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 Comcast/Time Warner Cable, AT&T/Time Warner Inc., Anheuser-Busch/Miller-Coors, and T-Mobile/Sprint, 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.
The Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act of 2019 would 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. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Ed Markey (MA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Cory Booker (NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).
Antitrust enforcement agencies need adequate tools and resources to address the threat of economic concentration, promote competition, and protect consumers. To address that need, Klobuchar has led the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act, which would update merger filing fees for the first time since 2001, lowering the burden on small- and medium-sized businesses, and ensuring that larger deals pay their fair share while also raising revenues. It would also provide agencies with better information post-merger to ensure that merger enforcement is meeting its goals. Senators Ed Markey (MA), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Mazie Hirono (HI), Dick Durbin (IL), Cory Booker (NJ), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Angus King (VT), Patrick Leahy (VT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) are cosponsors of the bill.