DOJ and FTC Announce Expedited Review Process for COVID-19 Requests
On March 24, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that they would expedite antitrust guidance for COVID-19 public health projects. In the agencies’ joint statement, they emphasized that they are committed to providing “expeditious guidance” to individuals and organizations responding to the COVID-19 national emergency.
Recognizing that under the current processes (for the FTC, the Advisory Opinion Process, and for the DOJ, the Business Review Process) the respective agency can take months to provide guidance, both agencies have pledged to accelerate their process for all COVID-19-related requests. In addition, the agencies are committed to reviewing any request that addresses public health and safety concerns within “seven calendar days.” However, as always, the timing is contingent on the reviewing agency having received all of the necessary information to review the proposed initiative. Each agency has a dedicated email address to be used for the COVID-19-related requests.
In addition, understanding the necessity of organizations to act immediately in some circumstances, the agencies further provided reminders of the types of collaborations that would “improve the health and safety response to the pandemic” and therefore “be consistent with the antitrust laws” so that a request for review would not be necessary.
While the agencies noted that they “will also account for exigent circumstances in evaluating efforts to address the spread of COVID-19 and its aftermath,” they warn against those who may try to use COVID-19 as an “opportunity to subvert competition or prey on vulnerable Americans.”