Morgan’s Monopoly Digest – August 2022

August 10, 2022 Anti-Monopoly Policies & Enforcement

Recent polling indicates Americans and small business owners desperately want Congress to tackle corporate power issues: 

    • GBAO polling found that voters of all backgrounds — rural and urban, Black and white, different educational levels — believe corporations have too much influence over our politics and our economy. 78 percent believe large corporations avoiding accountability is a serious problem.

In this monthly newsletter, we’re going to make sure you know the latest with the “antitrust agencies,” the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), Antitrust Division, as well as cover the work of other federal agencies that regulate competition policy. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. 

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Reining in Big Tech

    • FTC SUES META. The FTC filed suit to block Meta from acquiring a competing virtual reality fitness app, the first attempt to block a tech acquisition since Microsoft-Intuit in 1995. The suit argues that the acquisition will reduce competition among popular fitness apps and allow Meta to leverage its substantial market power in both VR headsets and the VR app store to undermine competition. Read the complaint and an analysis of the case.
    • WILL AICOA GET A VOTE? Majority Leader Schumer said that a floor vote the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a Klobuchar-Grassley bill to prevent dominant platforms like Google and Amazon from preferencing their own products and services, is delayed. Fight Corporate Monopolies released an ad on MSNBC pushing him to bring the bill to the floor while Big Tech spent big on scare tactics to defeat it.
    • ICYMI. Amazon wants to vacuum up Roomba to expand its data empire and dominate the Smart Home Market, Google took a big hit in court in its fight against Rumble, and Big Tech earnings beat expectations.

Building Worker Power

    • AUTHORS FIGHT BACK. The DOJ is suing Penguin Random House to block its proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster.  The suit is innovative in defining harm to include workers, specifically authors. Best-selling author Stephen King testified in the trial this week, stating that, “Consolidation is bad for competition.” 
    • ANTITRUST AGENCIES & NLRB. The DOJ and the FTC each signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) with the  National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to jointly share information regarding enforcement actions, training, and coordinate outreach. The MOUs are a sign that the agencies recognize the importance of fair competition in U.S. labor markets and was praised by unions
    • PROTECTING POULTRY WORKERS. In partnership with the USDA, the DOJ recently settled with Cargilland several other firms to ban the tournament system for chicken farmers making up 15% of the market. Advocates are pressing USDA to issue a rulemaking to ban the tournament system, a notoriously abusive and anti-competitive arrangement processors impose on producers.

Protecting Air Travelers

    • DEREGULATION’S FAILURES. This summer airlines have imposed record cancellations with little recourse for consumers. The Department of Transportation (DoT) released a proposed rule that could eventually force airlines to provide refunds in the case of cancellations and delays. Bills were introduced in Congress that would directly mandate airlines provide timely consumer refunds and shifted authority to protect consumers from DoT to the FTC
    • JETBLUE/SPIRIT MERGER. At the end of last month, JetBlue, the seventh largest carrier, announced it was buying Spirit, the eighth largest. This merger will harm competition and raise fares by further consolidating the industry.
    • ICYMI: Economic Liberties’ Bill McGee laid out the big picture on the summer travel crisis in USAToday and for NPR.

Improving Health Care

    • AMAZON WANTS ONE MEDICAL. Amazon announced its acquisition of One Medical, a national primary care company, which would give them access to the healthcare data of 700,000+ patients. Amazon already has immense power over commerce and this acquisition would further entrench its market dominance unless DOJ acts to block the merger. 
    • FTC INVESTIGATES PBMS. The FTC has begun a study of the six largest pharmacy benefit managers(PBMs).  PBMs are middlemen going between pharmacies, health insurance plans, drug makers, and patients. They exercise immense control over drug prices in the United States. The FTC’s 6(b) study is an important first step in beginning to check their power to lower drug prices. Read our Quick Take on PBMs here.
    • NY AG GOES AFTER CVS. Leticia James, the NY Attorney General, is suing CVS for violating antitrust laws by requiring safety net hospitals to use a CVS subsidiary when processing federal subsidies for prescriptions. The NY AG alleges this practice led to higher costs for hospitals and hampered their ability to invest in patient care. 
    • ICYMI: The DOJ’s trial to block UnitedHealth’s acquisition of Optum began, Facebook is sued for using patient data in ad targeting.