FTC, Department of Justice Launch Listening Forums on Direct Effects of M&As

The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice will host a series of listening forums to hear from those who have experienced first-hand the effects of mergers and acquisitions beyond antitrust experts, including consumers, workers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, farmers, investors and independent businesses. The four forums will be held virtually over the next three months and will be led by FTC Chairman Lina M. Khan and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Antitrust Division.

The four forums will focus on industries and labor markets that are typically affected by mergers that may reduce competition. The dates are as follows:

Listening Forums will be open to the public, broadcast on the FTC’s website, transcribed, posted online, and included in the public record.

FTC Chairman Lina M. Khan and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter will attend each event along with staff from both agencies. At each event, President Khan and Deputy Attorney General Kanter will provide a brief introduction followed by remarks from each speaker. Speakers will include independent business owners, entrepreneurs, farmers, workers and other market players. At the end of the speaker addresses, members of the public will have an opportunity to comment. Speaker registration is complete at this time. Due to challenges related to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, these forums will be held virtually. Additional forums may be added later.

The forums will complement the recent request for agency feedback on merger enforcement guidelines to ensure that agencies hear from affected groups who otherwise would not participate in the process. The agencies have also extended the deadline for written comments submitted by regulations.gov. Submission of comments will be open until April 21, 2022.

In January, the The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice have launched a joint public investigation aimed at strengthening the fight against illegal mergers. Recent data indicates that many industries in the economy are becoming more concentrated and less competitive, jeopardizing the choice and economic gains of consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and small businesses. These issues are likely to persist or worsen due to an ongoing merger spree that has more than doubled merger filings from 2020 to 2021. To address growing concerns, agencies are seeking public comment on ways to modernize federal merger guidelines to better detect, and prevent, anti-competitive agreements in today’s modern markets.

In addition to the public comment period and these listening forums, law enforcement agencies will hold a Executor Summit on April 4, 2022. The summit will include conversations on merger enforcement as well as discussions on how to work with industry regulators within a whole-of-government approach to competition policy.

For more information on these listening forums, go to the event page.

Harry L. Blanchard