By Jeffrey May, J.D.
The Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the FTC likely will be functioning normally soon in light of an agreement to end the partial government shutdown announced by the President today.
An agreement has been reached to temporarily reopen the federal government for three weeks. President Donald J. Trump announced the plan from the Rose Garden this afternoon. Shortly thereafter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Cal.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said that they expected that a continuing resolution would be approved by Congress and signed by the President. The federal antitrust agencies will likely be fully operational in the coming days. Without further action, the government could face another shutdown on February 15.
Some attorneys at the FTC and Department of Justice Antitrust Division continued working during the partial government shutdown. Yet, no new enforcement actions were announced by either agency.
Over the last 35 days, the agencies kept working on some pending court actions. For instance, a bench trial moved forward in the FTC’s high-profile lawsuit against Qualcomm, Inc. in the federal district court in San Jose, California. The agency is alleging that the company violated federal antitrust laws by leveraging its power in the modem chips market to impose unfair patent licensing terms and hurting chip-seller competition.
Similarly, at the Justice Department, lawyers continued work on pending merger actions. The federal district court in Washington, D.C. ordered Antitrust Division attorneys to continue reviewing and responding to public comments on a proposed final judgment, resolving competition concerns about the CVS Health Corporation and Aetna Inc. merger, despite government concerns that the partial shutdown was making review difficult.
On the other hand, FTC administrative proceedings were stayed. In addition, FTC events such as its series of hearings on competition and consumer protection in the 21st century, were put on hold.
While the government had said that merging parties were able to file premerger notifications under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, the shutdown slowed down merger reviews.
Just yesterday, Amcor Limited and Bemis Company, Inc. announced that the partial government shutdown has delayed their plans to combine to create a "global leader in consumer packaging." Because the companies were waiting for U.S. antitrust approval and completion of shareholder meeting documentation review by the Securities and Exchange Commission, they said that the deal would not close until the second quarter of 2019.
Once the government officially reopens, agency staff likely will be busy restarting operations and catching up on efforts derailed by the partial shutdown.
MainStory: TopStory AcquisitionsMergers Antitrust AntitrustDivisionNews FederalTradeCommissionNews FedTracker
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