WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, issued the following statement after the Department of Justice announced a settlement that would allow T-Mobile US, Inc. (T-Mobile) to complete its acquisition of Sprint Corporation (Sprint).
“Competition is critical to a strong economy—among the four largest cell phone carriers, that competition has led to lower prices, better service, and more innovation. That’s why, when this merger was first reported, I raised serious antitrust concerns about combining two of the four remaining nationwide wireless carriers, and I have since urged the Justice Department to reject the deal as anticompetitive. It looked like a bad deal then, and it looks like a bad deal today, despite the parties’ promises and this proposed consent decree.”
The settlement would replace the competition provided by Sprint—an established wireless carrier with a history of aggressive pricing—with that of a new carrier created out of a satellite TV company with no existing network, a bundle of spectrum assets, and multi-year service agreements with the merged company. The risk posed to consumers if Dish Network fails to build its new wireless business is immense. Klobuchar has publicly supported the lawsuit brought by 13 states and the District of Columbia to block this merger.
Klobuchar has championed efforts to protect consumers, promote competition, and fight consolidation in several industries including the agriculture, telecommunications, and pharmaceutical industries. Last month, she led two letters asking for details about possible Federal Trade Commission 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 early June, she and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a letter to Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, on potential political interference in the T-Mobile/Sprint merger investigations. Klobuchar has also 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., 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.
In June, Klobuchar and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act to 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. In January, Klobuchar introduced 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. The bill is cosponsored by Blumenthal and Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Klobuchar also introduced the Merger Enforcement Improvement Act to give antitrust enforcement agencies adequate tools and resources to address the threat of economic concentration, promote competition, and protect consumers. In addition to updating merger filing fees and raising antitrust agency appropriations, the bill would provide agencies with better information post-merger to ensure that merger enforcement is meeting its goals. The bill is cosponsored by Markey, Blumenthal, Booker, Gillibrand and Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-VT), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).