Spotlight on antitrust #6
- Baseball was exempted from federal antitrust law because the sport was not considered “interstate commerce” in the 1920s when the Supreme Court first decided the issue. Today, however, the Court regards practically every economic activity, no matter how trivial, as “interstate commerce,” so baseball’s special status is a relic that could be struck down at any time.
- Meanwhile, another planned acquisition found itself stuck in the quicksand of federal review and approval (“Mother may I merge?”). Ecolab, a big sanitation and filtration company, wanted to buy Champion Technologies for $2.2 billion. But the two companies, which safeguard health through a wide range of sanitation products, had to sit and await permission to do business from bureaucrats whose only function is to impede economic activity. Finally permission came, but at the price of several concessions extorted from the merging companies (to divest patented technology, to license proprietary chemistry, to offer for sale a chemical blending facility, to manufacture certain products for another company, and to allow that company to recruit certain Champion employees needed to support the business).
- As if the health care industry weren’t already buckling under the weight of government intervention, the Federal Trade Commission is sharpening its knives in anticipation of opportunities to prevent hospital mergers.
- Global competition regulators met in Australia to share their views on future priorities: “Competition agencies cannot remain behind national or regional fences—we need to pull our forces together.”
- The newest Federal Trade Commission member is a George Mason law school professor who has criticized the agency for settling too many cases through consent decrees, instead of approaching cases as if they will be tried in court.