Trump’s Antitrust Chief Calls for Curbs on Mergers by Big Firms

The Trump administration’s outgoing antitrust chief called on Congress to pass legislation that would place new restrictions on mergers by dominant companies, echoing an earlier proposal made by House Democrats.

Makan Delrahim, who is stepping down as head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said the division has drafted legislation that would make it harder for big companies to acquire smaller firms that could pose future competitive threats.

“My goal is to create a bright-line rule for parties and for courts,” Delrahim said in a speech Tuesday at an event hosted by Duke University. New merger legislation could “effectively combat the excessive market concentration,” he said.

Delrahim’s remarks represent support from a Republican administration official for a proposal made by House Democrats last fall. An antitrust panel investigating giant technology firms in October called for new legislation to curb acquisitions by dominant companies, particularly in the technology industry. Antitrust enforcers have been criticized for allowing tech giants free rein to buy smaller companies as a way to solidify their control over digital markets.

Delrahim also proposed the creation of a digital markets rulemaking board. The board would be a public-private self-regulatory board that would develop rules for digital markets. He suggested it as an alternative to a traditional regulatory body to oversee tech companies, which some have called for.

“The single greatest issues facing my successors, the new Congress, and the public relate to concerns of market integrity and market power in the increasingly concentrated digital marketplace,” Delrahim said.

The division’s draft legislation on merger limitations proposes that companies that control more than 50% of a market be blocked from acquiring firms in the same market unless they can show they won’t be able to exercise market power after the deal or that there are benefits to the transaction that outweigh the harms, Delrahim said.

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