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Monday, June 18, 2018

Federal Antitrust Laws

Peter King
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I got asked not long ago for my opinion on Federal Antitrust Laws. I had to preface my answer that I am not an attorney, but my belief is that the central concern of federal government policy is with those acquisitions that increase the danger that companies in a particular market or sector will have “market power” – the power to raise prices or limit production free from the constraints of competition. This danger increases when a market is dominated by a few large companies with substantial market share. Federal antitrust laws prohibit any acquisition of stock or assets that tends to substantially lessen competition.

Acquisition of stock or assets of a competitor, known as a horizontal acquisition, is most likely to raise antitrust concerns, especially if it occurs in a market that is already dominated by a few companies. An acquisition involving companies in a supplier-purchaser relationship, known as a vertical acquisition, or companies that may be potential competitors, could also raise antitrust concerns, but in general vertical transactions are less of a concern from an antitrust perspective.

The Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, and in some instances the Securities and Exchange Commission may seek to stop acquisitions, or review acquisitions, that they consider likely to significantly lessen competition. The Hart-Scott-Rodino Act requires that the FTC and DOJ be given advance notification of all mergers and acquisitions involving companies and transactions above a minimum size. The Sherman Act also prohibits anticompetitive collaboration among competing companies – including price fixing, bid rigging, market allocation, or group boycotts.

If you believe you are victim of antitrust behavior, the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, and Securities and Exchange Commission, have investigative powers and can be contacted confidentially.


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