NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Antitrust Activism

March 12, 1998

A resurgence of antitrust regulation could bring corporate restructuring to a halt, observers warn. Recently, for instance, a proposed merger of wholesale drug companies required one firm to send the Federal Trade Commission 3,000 boxes of financial and legal documents. And that constituted just a follow-up to an earlier delivery.

  • Antitrust foes argue that mergers are necessary in this era of global competition and swift technological change -- and that those of the past five years have allowed the U.S. to create a world-beating economy.
  • An unprecedented $1 trillion worth of mergers involving U.S. firms took place last year -- an increase of 50 percent over 1996.
  • But the pace has slowed this year -- with only $102 billion worth of U.S. mergers announced as of mid-February, down 14 percent from the same period in 1997.
  • The government opposes about 30 mergers each year.

Part of the problem is that merger mania has driven up the price for target companies to about 30 times earnings versus 25 times earnings about four years ago. But increased activity by regulators is also credited with the slowdown.

Under federal law, companies are required to give government regulators 30 days' notice before consummating mergers worth $15 million or more.

Experts report that antitrust enforcement under the Clinton administration is considerably more active than under the Reagan administration, and marginally more active than under President Bush.

Source: Thor Vladmanis, "Antitrust Crackdown Frustrates Businesses," USA Today, March 12, 1998.


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