Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Antitrust News: Daily Roundup

* Today in Washington, the National Association of Attorneys General opens its three day seminar on antitrust. NAAG's Antitrust Project is headed by NewYork AG Eliot Spitzer, the self-appointed regulatory czar of American business. Susan Creighton, the FTC's antitrust caparegime will address the AGs on the Commission's recent efforts to limit the scope of the state action doctrine.

* Alaska's attorney general has opened an investigation into the sale of Yukon Fuel Company, one of the state's top diesel fuel producers. The state is concerned that Yukon's eventual buyer will be Crowley Maritime Service, currently Yukon's chief competitor. Alaska relies heavily on diesel fuel, and consolidation of the two companies could lead to price increases, which in antitrust parlance is akin to economic genocide. One of the more puzzling statements on this case comes from Meera Kohler, an electricity consumer advocate, who argues, "Without competitors, it would be whatever the market will bear, with no alternatives. This is puzzling because the whole point of competition is to decide what price "the market will bear". Mohler and her allies in the state AG's office don't want market competition, they want antitrust to function as a de facto price control over diesel fuel.

* The Justice Department reached separate agreements with General Electric and Alcan requiring divestitures before the companies can complete acquisitions of smaller rivals. It's funny. Antitrust regulators always howl that large corporations exert coercive and unfair influence over the market, yet these same companies always seem to settle DOJ antitrust charges without a fight. Perhaps big business isn't exerting enough coercive and unfair power in the market. If they did, the DOJ and FTC regulators would likely be out of a job, benefiting producers and consumers in the long run.

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