Presidential Candidate Klobuchar Takes Aim at Antitrust, Promotes Competition


Subjects like immigration, health care, criminal justice reform, taxes, international trade, and Russia dominate political news coverage. But one new Democratic candidate determined to challenge President Trump in 2020 wants to see to it that antitrust gets a great deal more attention.  In fact, she has already begun.

On Feb. 1, 2019, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) – nine days before announcing her bid for the presidency on a snowy Sunday in Minnesota — introduced two bills designed to “modernize antitrust enforcement and promote competition.”

#1. The Merger Enforcement Improvement Act would “update existing law to reflect the current economy and provide agencies with better information post-merger to ensure that merger enforcement is meeting its goals. This bill would modernize antitrust enforcement by improving the agencies’ ability to assess the impact of merger settlements, requiring studies of new issues, adjusting merger filing fees to reflect the 21st century economy, and providing adequate funding for antitrust agencies to meet their obligations to protect American consumers.”

#2. The Consolidation Prevention and Competition Promotion Act of 2019 would “restore the original purpose of the Clayton Antitrust Act to promote competition and protect American consumers” and “strengthen the current legal standard to help stop harmful consolidation that may materially lessen competition.”  Moreover, according to an announcement from the senator’s office, “it would clarify that a merger could violate the statute if it gives a company ‘monopsony’ power to unfairly lower the prices it pays or wages it offers because of lack of competition among buyers or employers.”  The bill would guard against “mega-mergers” and shift the burden to the merging companies to prove that their consolidation does not harm competition.

“Tackling concentrations of power is a linchpin to a healthy economy,” Klobuchar said. “These aren’t partisan issues, they’re consumer issues.”

“The antitrust agencies’ preference for structural remedies has been widely reported. The post-merger, real-world effects of structural remedies are increasingly important but unfortunately are mostly unknown,” said MoginRubin Partner Jodie M. Williams. “Senator Klobuchar’s plan aims to improve transparency and give the agencies the tools they need to conduct post-deal analyses.”

As a ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, this is not the senator’s first foray promoting competition. Considered a subject matter expert, she has introduced legislation to lift the ban against Medicare negotiating prescription drug prices for millions of senior citizens; co-sponsored the bipartisan Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act to “crack down on anti-competitive pay-for-delay pharmaceutical deals in which branded companies pay their generic competitors not to compete as part of a patent settlement”; and co-authored the Short on Competition Act to temporarily allow the importation of drugs approved by other countries with safety regulations in line with those in the U.S. that face little or no competition here. Read Klobuchar’s news release.

Klobuchar was among the more aggressive senators when it came to questioning the privacy and political advertising policies at Facebook, Google and Twitter.  And, according to a Feb. 11 article posted at Vox.com, “Klobuchar’s antitrust positions put her at odds with big companies like Google and Facebook that have increasingly sought to buy up smaller companies, but she’s not their sworn enemy. She has stood by the industry on issues like patent reform and high-skilled immigration, including signing onto bills that streamlined the music licensing process for digital streaming services like Spotify and expedited the patenting process. These are things the tech industry likes.” Read the full Vox story by Li Zhou and Emily Stewart

 

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