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Lawmakers Rally to Reinstate Funding for Antitrust Enforcers

 |  March 6, 2024

A bipartisan effort is underway among lawmakers to restore funding to the Justice Department’s antitrust enforcers, as Congress gears up to consider a crucial spending bill this week. This move comes in response to concerns over a provision that diverts corporate filing fees meant for antitrust enforcement efforts.

In a letter addressed to key House and Senate negotiators on the budget package, a group of legislators expressed “strong opposition” to the provision, which they argue would redirect funds collected by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from corporate mergers. According to Bloomberg, the letter was jointly signed by Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, alongside three House members, including Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, hailing from New York.

The legislative pushback stems from a previous decision made by Congress in December 2022 to increase fees with the intention of bolstering support for antitrust enforcement endeavors.

The move was seen as a proactive step to empower authorities in tackling anti-competitive practices and safeguarding market competition. According to data from the White House Office of Management and Budget cited by Bloomberg, the antitrust division amassed $55 million in fees during the first three months of the fiscal year, highlighting the significance of these financial resources in sustaining enforcement efforts.

However, the current appropriations bill for 2024 fails to ensure full access to these pre-merger filing fees for the Antitrust Division, prompting concerns among lawmakers about the potential hindrance to effective enforcement activities.

In their letter, the bipartisan group emphasized the importance of supporting the crucial work undertaken by antitrust agencies and urged their colleagues to rectify the funding shortfall.

The debate surrounding antitrust enforcement has intensified in recent years, fueled by growing concerns over the dominance of tech giants and the concentration of market power in certain industries. Advocates for robust antitrust enforcement argue that it is essential for fostering fair competition, protecting consumers, and promoting innovation within the marketplace.

Source: Bloomberg