Just two months after antitrust experts told Reuters that the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger “actually has a fair shot,” news that the Justice Department is planning to crackdown on antitrust cases suggests that the deal might be in trouble again.
The DOJ’s Antitrust Division plans to do away with many of the polices the division used under the Bush administration and usher in tougher rules.
TicketNews: Effective immediately, the antitrust division will no longer use guidance from a September 2008 report called, “Competition and Monopoly: Single-Firm Conduct Under Section 2 of the Sherman Act,” because it “raised too many hurdles to government antitrust enforcement and favoured extreme caution and the development of safe harbors for certain conduct,” according to [Antitrust Division head Christine] Varney.
“Withdrawing the Section 2 report is a shift in philosophy and the clearest way to let everyone know that the Antitrust Division will be aggressively pursuing cases where monopolists try to use their dominance in the marketplace to stifle competition and harm consumers,” Varney said in a statement. “The Division will return to tried and true case law and Supreme Court precedent in enforcing the antitrust laws.”…
“What Ms. Varney’s statements mean is that the antitrust division under her leadership will be much more enforcement-minded than during the Bush era,” [antitrust expert James] Hurwitz [of the American Antitrust Institute] said. “They will look at things with a more critical eye. I’m not saying that they will challenge to have the merger stopped, but the division would be more likely to challenge it, if that is their ultimate finding.”
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