After a bit of hiatus on aggressively challenging vertical mergers, regulators both here in the United States and abroad have resumed initiated actions to challenge vertical mergers. Traditionally a difficult lift for the FTC, vertical vergers involve companies above and below each other in the supply chain. Instead of directly competing, an upstream company acquires the company it supplies with critical inputs. Recent announcements of high-profile vertical mergers signal increased FTC and European regulatory scrutiny in the area.
“Mark my words: Change is coming. Laws are coming.” That was the warning David Cicilline (D-RI) – the House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chairman – gave on February 25th at the first in a series of hearings following the Subcommittee’s 16-month probe into Big Tech’s gatekeeping power. This one, titled Reviving Competition, Part 1: Proposals to Address Gatekeeper Power and Lower Barriers to Entry Online, focused on three proposed reforms: interoperability and data portability requirements, nondiscrimination rules, and structural separation. The majority of the hearing witnesses, ranging from the CEO of Mapbox to the Director the Competition Advocacy Program at the Global Antitrust Institute, were clear supporters for these proposed reforms. While none are new ideas, each, if passed, would be a significant sea change in competition law.