Monday, October 01, 2007

Administration Would “Reinvigorate Antitrust Enforcement”: Senator Obama

This posting was written by John W. Arden.

If elected president, Senator Barack Obama would direct his administration “to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement” by stepping up review of merger activity, taking aggressive action to curb the growth of international cartels, monitoring key industries to ensure that consumers realize the benefits of competition, and strengthening competition advocacy domestically and in the international community.

Senator Obama (D-Ill.) made this pledge in a statement to the American Antitrust Institute (AAI), released September 27. The AAI had invited all the presidential candidates to submit their views on antitrust. However, only Senator Obama responded within the requested time frame.

“American Way to Make Capitalism Work”

“Antitrust is the American way to make capitalism work for consumers,” according to the statement. “America has been a longtime leader in antitrust, and our antitrust rules and institutions have often served as models for other countries wanting to make capitalism work for consumers.”

“At home, for more than a century, there has been broad bipartisan support for vigorous antitrust enforcement, to protect competition and foster innovation and economic growth,” the statement continued. “Regrettably, the current administration has what may be the weakest record of antitrust enforcement of any administration in the last half century.”

Merger Enforcement

As an illustration, Senator Obama pointed out that between 1996 and 2000 the FTC and Department of Justice challenged an average of 70 mergers per year on antitrust grounds. Between 2001 and 2006, the agencies challenged only an average of 33 mergers per year. “And in seven years, the Bush Justice Department has not brought a single monopolization case.”

This “lax enforcement” has resulted in higher concentration and higher prices in industries such as health care and insurance, he indicated. “My administration will also ensure that insurance and drug companies are not abusing their monopoly power through unjustified price increases—whether on premiums for the insured or on malpractice insurance rates for physicians.”

Senator Obama’s two-page statement appears on the AAI web site.

The American Antitrust Institute—an independent, non-profit education, research, and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.—said it would be pleased to publish any additional candidate statements.

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