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Senators Ask For Antitrust Vigilance During COVID-19

 |  May 5, 2020

A group of senators has called on the heads of the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission to remain vigilant against anti-competitive mergers and conduct as the country continues to suffer the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fifteen senators led by Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, ranking member of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, on Friday, May 1, sent a letter to the federal government’s top antitrust officials, reported Law 360. The letter stated that economic disruption caused by the pandemic will likely create numerous possibilities for anti-competitive activity, and it urged the agencies to continue enforcing antitrust and consumer protection laws “during and after this chaotic period in our history.”

“The challenges involved in protecting competitive markets and enforcing the antitrust laws have undoubtedly increased during this public health and economic crisis, as employees are forced to work from home and limited agency resources are stretched even further,” the letter read. “But if American companies and workers are to thrive in the global marketplace once COVID-19 is behind us, we need open and competitive U.S. markets.”

While many businesses are suffering from the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, some companies operating in the digital economy appear to be thriving, the lawmakers said. This discrepancy could lead to a new wave of consolidation, the letter stated, as technology outfits and others that are still performing well look to snap up distressed assets on the cheap.

“Such transactions may raise difficult issues for agencies tasked with preventing anticompetitive mergers,” the senators wrote. “COVID-19 has not driven away threats to competition, far from it.”

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Democrat – Massachusetts) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat – New York) announced plans to introduce legislation that would ban most mergers and acquisitions by companies over a certain size while the country recovers from the pandemic. The lawmakers said a moratorium is needed to stop large corporations and investment funds from exploiting the outbreak and its economic impact.

Full Content: Law 360

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