U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the incoming chairwoman and top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust and commerce, introduced a sweeping antitrust reform bill on Thursday. If passed, the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act would make it much harder for the biggest U.S. companies to do deals, reports Politico.
It’s aimed at strengthening competition laws and revamping antitrust enforcement. The measure combines several existing proposals into one omnibus bill that lays out Democrats’ strategy for tackling monopolization across American business.
Any company with more than $100 billion in annual revenue would have a far higher bar for acquisitions: they’d need to show that the merger would not hamper competition. Based on the Fortune 500 rankings for 2020, that could impact telecoms such as AT&T, Verizon and cableco Comcast, as well as tech platforms like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft.
The first proposal would make anticompetitive mergers more difficult by amending the Clayton Act. It would add a risk-based standard to the current antitrust law and clarify that mergers that create a monopoly violate it, according to The Hill.
The measure would also seek to shift the burden to parties seeking a merger to prove that they would not create a risk of lessening competition. The legislation lists several categories of mergers that would pose such a risk, including acquisitions by a dominant firm with 50 percent market share, acquisitions of disruptive firms by competitors and mega-merger transactions valued at $5 billion or more.
The other major proposal seeks to increase the effectiveness of the government’s two antitrust enforcers, the Justice Department’s antitrust division and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It would add $300 million to each group’s annual budget and authorize them to seek civil fines for competition violations.
Klobuchar called the DOJ’s Antitrust Division and the FTC “shadows of their former selves” with fewer employees today than during the Reagan Administration in 1984. “You can’t take on the biggest companies the world has ever known with band aids and duct tape,” she told several news outlets, including Axios.
The Hill reports the legislation faces long odds of passing in its entirety out of the Senate as long as Republicans maintain filibuster power. However, it does serve as an opening salvo on a topic that has garnered increased interest recently, especially as the country’s biggest tech companies come under antitrust scrutiny.
In the meantime, Klobuchar’s antitrust panel plans a series of hearings on how monopolies and a lack of competition are impacting specific industries. Sessions on telecom and communications, tech, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, and other areas, are planned. The bill is co-sponsored by subcommittee members Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
The post Telecom Could be Ensnared by New Antitrust Reform Bill appeared first on Inside Towers.