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US: FTC Chairwoman Ramirez testifies before Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on antitrust

 |  March 10, 2016

Testifying on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, Chairwoman Edith Ramirez outlined how effective antitrust enforcement benefits both consumers and businesses by preventing mergers and business conduct that could lead to higher prices, lower quality products and services, and less innovation.

Citing the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, Chairwoman Ramirez noted that “[f]ederal antitrust law is a central safeguard for the Nation’s free market structures.”

In testimony presented to the subcommittee, the Federal Trade Commission described its current competition enforcement activities and priorities. According to the testimony, during calendar year 2015, the Commission challenged 27 mergers. In most, it negotiated a remedy that preserved competition in the affected markets, allowing the merger to proceed. However, the Commission filed suit to block six transactions.

The six litigated merger challenges include last year’s successful effort to block Sysco’s acquisition of rival US Foods. A federal court agreed with the FTC in ruling that the merger was likely to lessen competition in broadline foodservice distribution markets, both nationwide and in a number of local markets around the country, leading to higher prices and diminished quality.

Four litigations are ongoing, including three seeking to stop anticompetitive hospital mergers – in Huntington, West Virginia, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the North Shore area of Chicago. The other pending suit, FTC v. Staples, Inc., challenges the merger between the two largest sellers of consumable office supplies to large business customers with a preliminary injunction hearing set to begin in federal court in Washington, D.C. later this month.

The testimony also notes that in the last two years alone, the agency has taken action in 17 pharmaceutical industry mergers, ordering divestitures in the sale of dozens of both branded and generic drugs used to treat a variety of conditions, such as hypertension, cirrhosis, and bipolar disorder.

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