Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

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Levin College of Law

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What Does the American Antitrust Institute Do?

Posted by Bert Foer

Because the AAI offers an expansive perspective on antitrust that does not generally command the adherence of those in power, it is difficult to demonstrate that we have had much influence on the Bush Administration or the federal courts. Our white papers on current investigations (e.g., the cruise mergers, the washing machine merger, the cotton seed merger, various grocery mergers) have helped inform the media and have seemingly pushed the agencies into greater transparency, without necessarily affecting the outcome. Our increasingly frequent amicus briefs to state and federal appellate courts (and occasionally to a trial court, as in the Whole Foods case recently) have provided expert support for pro-enforcement positions, often  with an angle that is not otherwise being offered. Although some critics have wrongly suggested that we are the voice of the plaintiffs' bar, because our positions are typically supportive of an enforcement strategy, it is more accurate to say that the AAI's presence in a case or investigation represents an effort to keep the flame of strong and vigorous competition policy alive in an environment that is often hostile.

Perhaps our most important contribution to the antitrust scene has been our conferences and symposia. We do not focus on "updating your professional knowledge" or "how to help your client" but rather on creative thinking about the direction of policy. A series of brainstorming sessions at Northeastern University resulted in an AAI book, Diana Moss (ed.), Network Access, Regulation, and Antitrust. The papers we generate for our conferences end up as the substance of law review symposium issues-- over a dozen so far. We have put subjects like buyer power and retail category management on the antitrust map. In addition to our major national conference, we typically run an annual multi-disciplinary symposium on a cutting edge topic (our most cutting edge was titled "The Science of Complexity and Antitrust" and it has led us to an on-going brainstorming series on systems competition), and an annual workshop on electricity restructuring that brings together year after year for off-record discussions, a representative group of stakeholders. We believe that the body of literature we have been creating will eventually contribute to an alternative national policy.

The AAI is not at this point a membership organization. We rely heavily on our Advisory Board, which is an activist body, and the Senior Fellows, who are a sort of inner circle of the Advisory Board. We urge those who are interested in our work to sign up for e-bulletins on www.antitrustinstitute.org. Volunteers for work on amicus briefs and policy topics can write to me at bfoer@antitrustinstitute.org. Deductible contributions can be made directly through the website, and we are always particularly interested in potential cy pres awards.

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