The LATEST: FTC “Second Requests” to be Narrower in Scope under Ohlhausen’s Leadership
Transactions that meet the Hart-Scott-Rodino thresholds for notification must be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Department of Justice. Where a notified transaction raises competition concerns, the reviewing agency may decide to launch an in-depth investigation and request additional information from the merging parties, known as a “Second Request,” which can take several months and cost companies millions of dollars to fully respond. Under FTC Acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen’s leadership, however, the burden of a Second Request may decrease, as she intends to narrow their scope.
Acting Chairwoman Ohlhausen has signaled that Second Requests will be more limited under her leadership, based on comments made on February 15, 2017 at a Washington conference.
The standard for initiating a Second Request will not change. However, once initiated, Second Requests will be narrower in scope, in terms of markets assessed and data requested from companies.
What this Means:
The standard used by the FTC to initiate such investigations will not change; thus, complex transactions raising competition concerns will likely still face a Second Request.
However, the time and cost associated with complying with a Second Request may be reduced, which will be good news for companies who may face a shorter review at a lower cost.
This business-friendly approach is consistent with Commissioner Ohlhausen’s guiding principles of “regulatory humility, […] the power of competitive markets, and a devotion to empiricism” and her objective to “minimiz[e] the burdens on legitimate businesses”. As such, it may be one of further changes to come in FTC enforcement.