Congressional Pressure Builds for Increased Antitrust Scrutiny of Vertical Mergers
In a June 18, 2020, letter to the heads of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, several U.S. Senators expressed their views that the draft vertical merger guidelines (“Guidelines”) (first released for public opinion on January 10, 2020) need to be strengthened and completed as expeditiously as possible. In the letter, these Senators noted the following:
Going forward, the economic chaos caused by the pandemic may lead to profound structural changes in many industries and a sharp rebound in mergers and acquisitions activity, as cash-rich companies and investors seek to acquire struggling businesses and assets at bargain prices. Many of these transactions will be vertical mergers, and inevitably, some will raise significant antitrust issues.
These Senators advocate for more rigorous antitrust enforcement of vertical mergers supported by Guidelines that, among other things:
While vertical mergers have garnered more attention, revising the draft Guidelines as these Senators advocate would represent a significant shift in vertical merger enforcement and signal a more narrow view of the many benefits of vertical mergers.