Monday, January 20, 2020

Interagency Merger Review in Labor Markets

Hiba Hafiz, Boston College Law School has written on Interagency Merger Review in Labor Markets.

ABSTRACT: As empirical evidence of labor market concentration mounts, academics and policymakers have put forward a range of proposals to challenge or reverse its effects on workers’ wages and labor market options. Prominent among these is more aggressive review of the labor market effects of mergers as part of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s broader merger review and approval process. This Essay argues for a novel intervention in the labor antitrust debates: because the consumer welfare focus of the antitrust agencies will prioritize consumers over workers when and if they conflict, and because the antitrust agencies lack expertise in labor markets, labor agencies should have concurrent jurisdiction to review and approve mergers that increase employer monopsony power under a “public interest” standard.

The Essay makes three original contributions. First, it outlines the limitations of existing proposals for integrating labor market effects into the antitrust agencies’ merger review as a doctrinal and methodological matter. Second, it provides the first overview and evaluation of the range of interagency coordination and policy-sharing between the DOJ/FTC and outside agencies on merger review, including but not limited to the antitrust agencies’ concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal Communications Commission. This overview reveals a more complex picture of antitrust merger review that incorporates a range of standards—including a “public interest” standard—depending on the regulated industry, showing a broader administrative default of mandated expertise in industry-specific antitrust regulation. That default both contextualizes and supports the proposed extension of concurrent jurisdiction to labor agencies in merger reviews with labor market concentration effects. Finally, it provides detailed recommendations for how the labor agencies’ concurrent jurisdiction would operate to integrate their expertise into the evaluation of post-merger labor market effects.

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