There is no question that antitrust policy, at any time, is highly influenced by the prevailing economic thinking. Equally unquestionable is the fact that economic thinking is highly influenced by one’s political philosophy. With these principles established, the current debate over the purpose of the antitrust laws, and thus the standards they ought to employ, seems an inevitable conclusion to the shifting economic and political tides that have taken place over the last several decades. In this installment in our series, The antitrust revolution is coming? The antitrust revolution is here?, we discuss the continued evolution of antitrust through the 1990s and 2000s and the arguments for and against retaining “consumer welfare” as the prime or sole objective of the antitrust laws.
Borrowing from the immortal words of Paul Revere, the title consciously evokes images of a battle, though fought with words and ideas and (hopefully) not muskets and bayonets. The proper objectives of the antitrust laws and the appropriate level of antitrust enforcement has been discussed in mainstream media more over the last decade than perhaps at any point in time. Indeed, in both 2016 and 2020, the Democratic Party platform included a section on antitrust. Many non-lawyers may assume that the public discussions about antitrust are nothing more than the normal discourse attendant to political jockeying. And to some extent that may be correct. But there really is a more fundamental debate going on that hit at the heart and soul of antitrust. In fact, to a very real extent, the debate about antitrust mirrors the divide in social philosophy that underlies the political schism that exists today.
An antitrust revolution is upon us. Numerous pundits and political leaders blame many of today’s societal and economic ills on what they claim is the increasing concentration of economic power in the hands of a few. Perceived lax antitrust enforcement and permissive antitrust laws, many claim, is the cause of that. Indeed, President Joe Biden has placed antitrust enforcement at the forefront of his administration and aims to use antitrust enforcement to remedy social inequities and restore democratic ideals. Continue Reading
In a significant decision handed down last Thursday, April 22, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cannot, in the first instance, seek monetary remedies in federal court. Rather, it must first obtain a cease and desist order and, only after a violation of that order, can it seek penalties or other monetary relief, such as disgorgement. Read on for why this should matter to you.