In his State of the Union address last week, President Biden declared that he wants to: “strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, and demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”  This statement comes just a couple of weeks after Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Kids Online Safety Act.  That legislation, together with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the EARN IT Act, a bill aimed at protecting children from online sexual exploitation, gives Congress several options to focus on the internet and child safety—now with the President’s blessing.

The timing of the President’s declaration is important because the number of days available for Congress to take legislative action is shortening as the midterm elections approach.  Though Congress has already held several hearings about online platforms, particularly in the Judiciary Subcommittees with jurisdiction over antitrust, now remains an important time for stakeholders to engage in the discussion.  After the President’s address, the U.S. Senate is almost certainly laying the groundwork for what it would call a larger “tech accountability” package.

Continue Reading Is the U.S. Congress Preparing a “Tech Accountability” Package?

While much of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting next Thursday, February 3, will focus on the pending Supreme Court nomination, the Committee is still scheduled to mark up and vote on the Open App Markets Act (S. 2710)—which purports to address unfair competition in the app market.  This vote follows a particularly contentious markup of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (S. 2992)—a more sweeping piece of legislation that addresses platforms self-preferencing their own goods or services.  Though that bill was voted out of Committee on a 16-6 vote (with all Democrats voting yes), concerns were raised by both parties about its scope.  Because the Open App Markets Act is a much more targeted piece of legislation, the degree to which members raise similar concerns on Thursday will be a good bellwether of the level of openness or resistance to passing any form of antitrust legislation this Congress.

Continue Reading U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee To Consider Legislation On Unfair Competition in App Market

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published revised thresholds for the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act, which will take effect on February 23, 2022. Earlier, the FTC also announced new thresholds for Section 8 of the Clayton Act, which governs interlocking directorates. Each of these thresholds is higher for 2022, than for 2021. The HSR Act and Section 8 thresholds are adjusted annually based on the change in gross national product. The maximum daily civil penalty for violations of the HSR Act, which is tied to inflation, has also increased.
Continue Reading FTC Announces New Higher HSR Filing and Interlocking Directorate Thresholds, Higher Civil Penalties

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced on February 4, 2021, that it is temporarily suspending the discretionary practice of granting “early termination” of the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act waiting period, with support from the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The Agencies cited “the unprecedented volume of HSR filings” and “challenging transition period” as the reasons for suspending grants of early termination.
Continue Reading Early Termination of HSR Waiting Periods Temporarily Suspended

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) published revised thresholds for the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act, which will take effect on March 4, 2021. Earlier, the FTC also announced new thresholds for Section 8 of the Clayton Act, which governs interlocking directorates. Each of these thresholds is lower for 2021, than for 2020. This is only the second time the HSR Act thresholds, which—like the Section 8 thresholds—are indexed to gross national product, have fallen since annual adjustments began in 2005. In contrast, the maximum daily civil penalty for violations of the HSR Act, which is tied to inflation, has increased.
Continue Reading FTC Announces New Lower HSR Filing and Interlocking Directorate Thresholds, Higher Civil Penalties

Just over a year after launching the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (“PCSF”), the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division (“DOJ”) announced new measures to further its pursuit of antitrust and related crimes in government procurement, grant, and program funding.  These changes expand the PCSF’s enforcement capacity and signal DOJ’s enduring—and intensifying—commitment to the PCSF’s mission.

The PCSF has added 11 new national partners: the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and nine new U.S. Attorneys.  As a result, the growing PCSF coalition now includes 29 agencies and offices, including U.S. Attorneys in 22 federal judicial districts; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Offices of Inspectors General at six federal agencies.  The PCSF also named the Antitrust Division’s Daniel Glad as the Strike Force’s first permanent director, solidifying the PCSF’s institutional role at DOJ.  Glad previously served as an Assistant Chief at the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office.
Continue Reading Expansion of the Procurement Collusion Strike Force

On December 10th, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced its first criminal indictment targeting an alleged conspiracy to reduce employee wages. The DOJ charged the former owner of a therapist staffing company with conspiring to reduce pay rates for healthcare worker contractors, but did not charge the company itself. Specifically, the indictment alleges that, for a six-month period in 2017, the defendant and his co-conspirators exchanged non-public information on rates paid to healthcare workers; discussed and agreed to decrease rates paid to healthcare workers; implemented rate decreases in accordance with their agreement; and paid healthcare workers at collusive and noncompetitive rates. The indictment alleges that the defendant’s behavior constitutes a per se violation of the antitrust laws and seeks penalties including fines and potential imprisonment. The indictment also includes an obstruction of justice charge, stemming from allegedly false or misleading information the defendant provided the Federal Trade Commission during the agency’s investigation of the same subject matter.
Continue Reading Antitrust Division Brings First Criminal Wage-Fixing Charge

Changes Would Create New Exemption for Minority Acquisitions and Increase Filing Obligations for Certain Entities

Agencies Also Seek Public Comments that Could Lead to Additional Changes to the HSR Rules

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) (the “Agencies”) announced proposed changes to the premerger notification rules (“Rules”) promulgated under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) Act on September 21, 2020. Although the Agencies’ proposals are extensive, most significantly they would:

  1. create a new exemption for certain acquisitions that result in holding 10% or less of the voting securities of a target, so long as the acquirer and target do not “already have a competitively significant relationship;” and
  2. expand the definition of “person”, creating new filing obligations for certain entities, including many investment entities.


Continue Reading U.S. Antitrust Agencies Announce Proposed Changes to HSR Rules