Overnight Finance

On The Money — US regulators go after illegal mergers

The Department of Justice seal is seen in Washington, D.C.
Associated Press/Jose Luis Magana

Happy Tuesday and welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Today’s Big Deal: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice’s antitrust division have launched a new inquiry aimed at updating guidelines to block illegal mergers. We’ll also look at the Supreme Court’s recent rejection of a request to block a federal mask mandate for air travel.

But first, check out the massive asteroid passing by Earth today. 

For The Hill, we’re Sylvan Lane (slane@thehill.com), Aris Folley (afolley@thehill.com) and Karl Evers-Hillstrom (kevers@thehill.com).

Let’s get to it.

Feds launch inquiry amid surge in mergers

The FTC and Department of Justice’s antitrust division on Tuesday launched a new inquiry aimed at updating guidelines to block illegal mergers.

The agencies are seeking public input to update guidelines over the next 60 days.

“Illegal mergers can inflict a host of harms, from higher prices and lower wages to diminished opportunity, reduced innovation and less resiliency,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. 

  • The inquiry comes amid a surge in new mergers, filings for which doubled between 2020 and 2021. 
  • The two agencies tasked with antitrust enforcement spent 18 months reviewing their joint guidance on vertical mergers during the Trump administration. The FTC voted last fall to withdraw those guidelines on a party-line vote. 
  • The Department of Justice separately said it intends to review guidelines for both vertical mergers — referring to acquisitions within the same supply chain — and horizontal ones, which deal with competitors.

The announcement Tuesday is one of the first major collaborations between Khan and Kanter, two nominees of President Biden who were strongly backed by progressives. 

The Hill’s Chris Mills Rodrigo has more here.

 

TRADING TROUBLES

Two-thirds of Americans support banning lawmakers from trading stocks: poll 

Sixty-seven percent of Americans support banning lawmakers from trading stocks, according to a new poll from progressive firm Data for Progress.

The poll, released on Tuesday, found that figure increased to 74 percent when respondents were given arguments for and against a ban.

Seventy-five percent of Democrats said they strongly or somewhat support a ban on lawmaker stock trading alongside 76 percent of independents and 70 percent of Republicans. 

  • It follows another poll from the Trafalgar Group and conservative advocacy group Convention of States Action finding that 76 percent of voters believe that lawmakers and their spouses have an “unfair advantage” when trading stocks. 
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said that lawmakers have the right to make private investments, but she recently announced that Congress may need stricter penalties for those who violate stock trading rules. 

Several lawmakers, including Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) recently introduced bills to prevent members of Congress from trading stocks. 

Read more here from The Hill’s Olafimihan Oshin. 

Court rejects bid to block plane mask mandate

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request to block a federal mask mandate for air travel.  

The emergency application was filed by a father on behalf of himself and his 4-year-old autistic son, both of whom claim to be medically incapable of wearing masks for extended periods.  

Their request was filed to Justice Neil Gorsuch, who handles emergency applications arising in several Western states, and he referred the matter to the full court. The justices denied the request without comment or noted dissent. 

  • Under an executive order signed by President Biden, the Transportation Security Administration requires passengers on airplanes and other public transportation to wear masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 850,000 in the U.S. 
  • Joining the father-son challengers was another man, Lucas Wall, who has sought to raise money and publicity from his legal efforts targeting the federal transportation mask mandate. Chief Justice John Roberts last month unilaterally rejected a separate challenge filed by the group. 

The court’s move comes less than a week after the justices issued a split decision on another set of Biden administration pandemic mitigation measures. Last Thursday, the court voted 6-3 to block a vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers but voted 5-4 to maintain a vaccine mandate for health providers at federally funded facilities. 

Read more here from The Hill’s John Kruzel.

5G HOLDUP

AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G rollout near certain airports  

AT&T and Verizon on Tuesday each agreed to temporarily delay their 5G rollouts near certain airports amid concerns over possible flight disruptions. 

The move follows warnings from U.S. airlines that the new C-Band 5G wireless service that was set to deploy Wednesday could ground flights and potentially leave thousands of Americans stranded while also delaying the flow of goods. 

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has instituted restrictions on some airplanes over concerns that C-Band could disrupt their instruments. 
  • AT&T said in a statement that it is “frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services.” 

President Biden commended the wireless companies for agreeing to place limits around their 5G service rollout. 

“This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled,” President Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans.” 

The Hill’s Caroline Vakil has more on the agreement here.

Good to Know 

Close-up of a hand holding a bitcoin coin with a chart on the laptop screen in the background

The United Kingdom is cracking down on “misleading” cryptocurrency advertising as more citizens get involved in the digital assets.  

Finance Minister Rishi Sunak announced his plan on Tuesday to amend financial promotion legislation to include cryptocurrency. 

Here’s what else have our eye on: 

  • Employers are also expecting employee pay to rise by an average of 3.4 percent in 2022, a new Willis Towers Watson survey has found. The survey of 1,004 U.S. companies from October to November found companies budgeted for a 3.4 percent raise, up from the average 3 percent increase employers expected to give in 2022 in June of last year. 
  • Microsoft is buying game publisher Activision Blizzard in a transaction valued at nearly $70 billion, the tech company announced Tuesday
  • Filings from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicate that Walmart could be planning to create its own cryptocurrency and collection of nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Wednesday.

Tags Joe Biden Jon Ossoff Josh Hawley Lina Khan Mark Kelly Nancy Pelosi Neil Gorsuch

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