Cicilline Applauds House Passage of Legislation to Support Antitrust Litigation

Cicilline Applauds House Passage of Legislation to Support Antitrust Litigation

Jennifer.Bell2…

Thu, 09/29/2022 – 18:00

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, today applauded House passage of H.R. 3843, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2022, legislation introduced based on the findings of the Subcommittee’s 16-month, top-to-bottom investigation into the state of competition in the digital marketplace.

H.R. 3843 is a package of bipartisan, bicameral legislation to promote competition by (1) providing resources to the federal antitrust agencies; (2) protecting our national security interests through increased transparency of foreign interests in acquisitions; and (3) protecting the resources of state antitrust enforcers through changes to the multidistrict litigation process. It is supported by a broad coalition of labor and consumer and public-interest groups, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, Consumer Reports, Public Knowledge, and the Center for Democracy & Technology.

“H.R. 3843 is a key first step in our efforts to modernize our antitrust laws and crack down on the abusive behaviors of Big Tech,” said Congressman Cicilline. “This commonsense legislation — supported by every state attorney general across the country – is a straightforward, logical update to our laws to ensure that the DOJ and FTC not only have the resources they need for enforcement, but to also ensure that this system is not lopsided by favoring big corporations over consumers, small businesses, and workers.”

Congressman Cicilline spoke on the House floor today, urging all his colleagues to support the bipartisan legislation.
 

 
A transcript of the Congressman’s remarks is below.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker and I thank the Chairman for yielding.

H.R. 3843 is a modest, yet critical first step to modernizing the antitrust laws. It generates revenue, it makes foreign adversarial interests in transactions more apparent, and it allows more streamlined antitrust enforcement by state attorneys general.

On the first issue, I think there is general agreement that the fees that are involved in mergers haven’t been raised in decades. This [bill] simply allows smaller mergers to pay less, larger mergers to pay more. And, so there’s no more questions about it, this issue came up in the Rules Committee – this bill does not fund a single additional dollar to any agency. This is a revenue generator. There’s no appropriation. The appropriations process will require that this be treated like any other revenue the federal government generates and that the Appropriations Committee, in regular order, will decide how to spend the money.

And people should also not be concerned – under the Appropriations Act of 2022, the DOJ Antitrust Division’s use of appropriated funds is limited to – and I quote, “expenses necessary for the enforcement of antitrust and kindred laws.” End quote. There’s already a limitation. But [this bill] doesn’t fund, provide any additional funding – it simply generates revenues and shifts burdens to the largest transactions so that the tax-payers don’t have to be responsible for their review.

In recent decades, the rising tide of economic concentration has given rise to monopolies that exercise outsized influence over our democracy and our political institutions. And at the same time, the budgets for our antitrust enforcement agencies have not kept pace with the demands placed on them.

As Brian Deese, the Director of the National Economic Council, explained – and I quote – it is “unacceptable for these agencies’ resources to lag so far behind the growth of the economy they’re charged with protecting.” And that’s why the Biden-Harris Administration issued a Statement of Administrative Policy in support of this bill.

We can have the fight about whether additional resources are necessary during the appropriations process. This bill simply raises the fees, gives smaller businesses a break, and doesn’t appropriate a single dollar.

Title III of the bill strengthens antitrust enforcement by preventing state antirust actions from being dragged into private litigation in another venue.

This legislation enjoys wide support among the states.

Last year, the National Association of Attorneys General and every single [state] attorney general in the United States – every state attorney general – wrote a letter urging Congress to pass the bill’s amendments to the multidistrict-litigation statute – quote, “as soon as possible so that our citizens benefit from more efficient, effective, and timely adjudication of antitrust actions.” End quote.

So, I, too, urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this legislation and applaud them for their sponsorship. I want to thank Mr. Buck who has been a tremendous leader on this package of bills.

And, you know, there should be no question – Senator Lee, Senator Cotton, Senator Grassley, have said that this package represents – and I quote, “a strong bipartisan consensus. These bills improve antitrust enforcement without appropriating any more funds.” You don’t have to believe me, those are your Republican colleagues who make the same point.

In addition to that, this multijurisdiction[al] litigation robs state attorneys general who bring a federal antirust action in federal court from the ability to litigate in that court. Which, often, by dragging them to another state, is a great benefit to the big corporations, to the monopolists, but its harmful to their own constituents, their consumers, their businesses which is why they support this legislation.

And I would ask unanimous consent, Mr. Speaker, to add a number of items into the record to reflect the broad support enjoyed by H.R. 3843.

First, a strong Statement of Administrative Policy which makes clear this legislation is necessary to support the President’s mission to enforce the antitrust laws, to combat the excessive concentration of industry, the abuses of market power, and the harmful effects of monopoly and monopsony.

Second, a letter of support [for] the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act of 2021 signed by every attorney general in the United States, including California’s Rob Bonta who makes clear that – quote, “states should be on equal footing with federal enforcers in deciding where, when, and how to prosecute cases.” End quote. And not subject to a system to where their enforcement actions – and I quote, “may be subject to transfer, to a multidistrict litigation at the behest of defendants where the cases are typically postponed and may be joined with numerous other lawsuits brought by private plaintiffs.” End quote.

Third, a letter from a broad coalition of 36 labor, consumer, and public interest groups including Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, the Open Markets Institute, the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, the SEIU, who state that this “bipartisan, bicameral legislation represents a critical first step for Congress to reverse the course of lax antitrust enforcement that has proved to be destructive to small business, workers, communities, and innovation.”

And fourth, a statement from Chris Jones] with the National Grocers Association who says that – and I quote, “this bipartisan proposal does not change the antitrust laws, it takes the simple step of helping enforcers have a better shot of deterring abusive marketplace conduct that American consumers cannot afford right now.”

And finally, a statement from Diana Moss, President of the American Antirust Institute, who states that – quote, “additional resources are needed to enable the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission to review and investigate billion-dollar deals.” End quote.

So, for all those reasons, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense package that will help to enhance competition, give us the ability to improve our economy, and benefit consumers and workers and innovators and small businesses.

And with that, I yield back.
 

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Congress Number
September 29, 2022
September 29, 2022