Makam Delrahim (Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, U.S. DoJ) ‘Antitrust Enforcement in the Digital Era’

In these remarks, hich can be found here, AAG Delrahim defends the ‘broad antitrust consensus that still reigns today’ and considers how it might apply to the digital sphere. He begins by outlining the two key components of the current antitrust consensus. The first is the consumer welfare standard, which requires that some business practices should be condemned as unlawful only where they harm competition in such a way that consumers suffer. The second component is “evidence-based enforcement”. Outside the realm of naked horizontal restraints such as price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation, antitrust demands evidence of harm or likely harm to competition, often weighed against efficiencies or procompetitive justifications. Evidence-based enforcement also requires a readiness to adapt our existing antitrust framework and tools to new or emerging threats to competition. One such threat comes from digital platforms and the increased market concentration they give rise to. AGG Delrahim considers that the antitrust consensus approach is flexible to new business…

Tim Wu ‘After Consumer Welfare, now what? The ‘Protection of Competition’ Standard in Practice (2018) CPI Antitrust Chronicle April

The goal of this short piece, which can be found here, is to address arguments that abandoning the ‘consumer welfare’ standard would make antitrust law too unworkable and indeterminate. The paper argues that there is an alternative standard ‘protection of competition’ that is practicable and at least as predictable as the consumer welfare standard. This standard has the additional advantage of being much truer to the legislative intent underlying US antitrust laws than the consumer welfare standard. The piece is structured as follows The first section provides an overview of the two main criticisms of current antitrust practice. Critics of current antitrust practice are committed to antitrust revival, and broadly opposed to the extremes of the Chicago. However, they then divide as regards their approach to the “consumer welfare” standard. The first group – comprising mainly economist and lawyers – believes that the standard has been abused and misused, but nonetheless retains its utility as the anchor of antitrust law and policy….

Jonathan B. Baker, Jonathan Sallet & Fiona Scott Morton ‘Introduction: Unlocking Antitrust Enforcement’ (2018) Yale Law Journal 127(7) 1916

This piece is the introduction to a special issue by the Yale Law Journal on ‘Antitrust Enforcement’. I shall review a number of these articles in forthcoming posts. In the introduction, the authors begin by describing the context in which this special issue of the Yale Law Journal was published. This context is not dissimilar to that which led to the adoption of antitrust rules in the first place:  there is a market power problem which may contribute to slow economic growth and to widening economic inequality. This issue of the Journal tries to lay the foundation for an overarching enforcement agenda ‘in the long, but receding, shadow of the Chicago School, which brought economic analysis to the forefront of antitrust but failed to fully capture the realities of competition and the private actions that can curb it”. This small piece also explains the basic underpinnings of this new enforcement agenda. In particular, they consider that: “Economic analysis lies at…

Sandeep Vaheesan ‘The Twilight of the Technocrats’ Monopoly on Antitrust?’ (2018) Yale L.J. Forum 127 980

This issue of the Yale Law Journal above has  provoked a reaction, which can be found here.  The article argues, even as they present worthy policy recommendations, the contributions in this issue of the Yale Law Journal are disappointingly modest in scope, particularly in their acceptance of the consumer welfare standard. Rather than contribute to and engage with the growing debate on the suitability of the consumer welfare standard, the contributing scholars write as though consumer welfare antitrust is cast in stone. This is so even though current antitrust doctrine has aided and abetted the concentration of numerous markets. Powerful businesses have used their might to hurt people in myriad ways, and consumer welfare captures at most only a subset of these public harms. Not questioning the goals of antitrust—hardly even acknowledging that these goals, and particularly the consumer welfare standard, are contested—reveals a fixation on the technical trees at the expense of the philosophical forest. At heart, his argument…

Thomas Horton on ‘Rediscovering Antitrust’s Lost Values’ (2018) New Hampshire Law Review 16(2) 179

Antitrust is now widely said to be dedicated to maximizing “consumer welfare” through an intense focus on promoting “allocative efficiency”. This article, which can be found here, seeks to provide evidence of how such a limited goal has no support in legislative history by tracing U.S. Congress’s consistent balancing of social, political, moral, and economic values and objectives over the course of more than a century of antitrust legislation. The paper is structured as follows: Part II reviews antitrust statutes throughout the years, and how they blend fundamental political, social, moral, and economic values. This section begins by reviewing scholarship on the legislative history of the US’ antitrust statutes. This review shows that there are differences in how conservative and progressive scholars have interpreted the relevant statutes. Conservatives traditionally identified mainly economic goals in the law, while Progressives extracted a number of other political and social goals from the relevant legislative acts. Differences regarding the goals found to be present…