Technology

Democrats introduce bill to give FTC, DOJ power to block, break up mergers

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), introduced a bill Wednesday that would give federal antitrust enforcers greater power to block and break up mergers. 

The Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice to reject large merger deals without a court order. It would also give the government power to retroactively break up deals that resulted in a market share above 50 percent or “materially harmed” competition, workers, consumers, or small or minority-owned businesses. 

The proposal is backed by a coalition of progressives in both chambers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), and follows a series of proposals introduced in Congress targeting the market power of tech giants. 

Several antitrust reform bills have made their way out of committee in the House and Senate, but none have passed a full chamber. The Warren and Jones proposal may also face a tough road ahead. The bill lacks any GOP sponsors, and it is also notably missing Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the chairs of the Senate and House antitrust panels, among the list of co-sponsors. 

Under the Warren and Jones proposal, a “prohibited merger” would include deals valued at more than $5 billion, deals resulting in market shares of more than 33 percent for sellers or 25 percent for employers, and deals resulting in highly concentrated markets under the 1992 agency guidelines.  

Advocacy groups pushing for antitrust reform to target tech giants cheered the bill. 

American Economic Liberties Project Executive Director Sarah Miller said the proposal takes “direct aim at the record-shattering merger frenzy now supercharging the concentration of wealth and power in America.” 

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), a group that is raising concerns with the FTC over Microsoft’s planned acquisition of gaming publisher Activision Blizzard, said the bill would help project workers.  

“Mega mergers not only often result in mass layoffs, but an unfair concentration of market power that limits workers’ choices for employment, leads to wage suppression across industries, and hinders workers’ ability to exercise their rights,” CWA President Chris Shelton said in a statement. “In particular, when workers at these companies do not have union representation, they are not able to have a seat at the table and do not have a meaningful opportunity to fight back to protect their jobs and their communities.”

In January, Microsoft said it planned to buy Activision in a deal valued at nearly $70 billion. The deal is subject to FTC approval. 

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders David Cicilline Elizabeth Warren Mondaire Jones

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