After eight years of antitrust enforcement under the Obama administration that some consider robust, while others are more critical, it is fair to wonder what we can expect from a Trump or Clinton administration. Of course, it is often difficult, if not dangerous, to make such prognostications, but it is worth considering the question nonetheless.
Donald Trump has had little to say so far on his position concerning antitrust enforcement. But, he has had one high profile run-in with the antitrust laws that may inform his perspective on the topic. Way back in 1986, Mr. Trump owned the New Jersey Generals football team, which was part of the now defunct United States Football League (USFL). The USFL held their games only in the spring until Mr. Trump came along and convinced other owners they should move the games to the fall with the idea that the league might eventually merge with the NFL. When the USFL was unable to secure a broadcast television contract for showing fall games, he backed a lawsuit against the NFL for violations of the Sherman Act. Ultimately, the jury found that the NFL had violated Section 2 of the Act, but they rejected the USFL’s primary claim that the NFL had monopolized the television market or attempted to do so. As a result, the jury awarded just $1 in damages (trebled to $3). An appeal to the 2nd Circuit did not overturn the verdict, and the league disbanded.