Lee, Grassley, Hatch Introduce FTC Reform Bill

Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Standard Merger and Acquisition Reviews Through Equal Rules Act (SMARTER Act).  

This legislation reforms and modernizes the application of our antitrust laws by harmonizing the rules governing how the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) review proposed mergers and acquisitions.  

Based on recommendations made by the Antitrust Modernization Commission in a 2007 report, the bill would require the FTC and DOJ to satisfy the same standard to obtain a preliminary injunction to block a merger and would eliminate existing disparities between the procedures the two agencies use in merger litigation.  

Lee, Grassley, and Hatch said they look forward to a hearing on the bill that will be held on October 7th by the Subcommittee on Antitrust.  The Subcommittee will hear testimony from Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the FTC, and an expert panel of witnesses to explore the merits of the SMARTER Act and whether any improvements to the bill are warranted. 

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) has introduced the same version of the bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2745). 

“The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission share concurrent jurisdiction to review proposed mergers for compliance with our nation’s antitrust laws, and parties to a merger should not face different sets of rules when preparing to undergo a merger review process depending on the happenstance of whether the Antitrust Division of the DOJ or the FTC reviews their merger,” Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Mike Lee said. “Instead, the procedures and standards for review should be the same,” Sen. Lee said, “and whether a merger proceeds should depend on whether it is pro-competitive or anti-competitive, not on which agency reviews the transaction. My co-sponsors and I favor sensible, responsible reform measures that equalize the standards and procedures governing how the FTC and DOJ litigate merger cases.”

“Our antitrust laws are in place to protect consumers and promote competition,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley added. “We ought to be consistent when determining whether proposed mergers meet these goals, regardless of the agency conducting the review. Our legislation creates a more uniform standard for the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to ensure greater fairness and simplicity when reviewing proposed mergers and their impacts on consumers.”

“This is an important issue for the business community and for all Americans,” Sen. Hatch said. “There is no good reason for the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to apply different standards in enforcing our nation’s antitrust laws. Businesses seeking to merge deserve consistent treatment without regard to which agency decides to review the merger. I look forward to working with Senators Lee and Grassley to move this legislation forward to bring much-needed reforms to the merger review process.”