Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Tom Horton (South Dakota Law) asks The New United States Horizontal Merger Guidelines: Devolution, Evolution, or Counterrevolution?
ABSTRACT: This article reviews the new Horizontal Merger Guidelines released on August 19, 2010, by the United States Department of Justice, through its Antitrust Division, and the Federal Trade Commission. The United States' New Horizontal Merger Guidelines converge towards and closely mimic their European counterparts. Indeed, the New Guidelines differ dramatically from their 1992 predecessors, and signal an American competition theory counterrevolution. First, they reveal a commitment towards more aggressive horizontal merger enforcement driven by a renewed emphasis on the incipiency standard. Second, they set out a less formulaic and rigid review methodology, which the Agencies hope will prove to be more litigation friendly, as they pursue enforcement cases in American courts. And third, they indicate heightened concerns about potential unilateral effects, including exclusionary conduct, and impacts on non-price competition such as quality, variety, and innovation. When the New Guidelines are systematically compared side by side to the EC's, the resemblances are striking. Indeed, the New Guidelines more closely resemble the EC's than they do their 1992 predecessors. It can be fairly concluded that the New Guidelines' drafters were heavily influenced by, and paid close attention to, the EC's guidelines. However, it is unclear whether the New Guidelines will survive a conservative administration, or how they will be accepted and interpreted by the American courts.