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Big Tech’s little mergers draw more U.S. antitrust scrutiny By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in a combination photo/File Photo

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Federal Trade Commission staff presented data on Wednesday on small acquisitions by five big technology companies, and the agency scrapped guidelines on vertical mergers which combine a company with a supplier — both steps indicating plans to be tougher on deals.

FTC staff discovered that 616 of the 616 acquisitions between 2010 and 2019 were more than $1 million, but not large enough to report to antitrust authorities. This was in response to a Trump-era study.

As a Democrat and Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter stated that it is inefficient to examine each transaction individually. I see serial acquisitions like a Pac-Man strategy. Although each merger may seem small in its own right, they can have a significant effect on the overall strategy. She said that the combined impact of many smaller acquisitions can result in monopolistic behavior.

Republican Commissioner Christine Wilson called for an identical study of health care mergers.

FTC filed a lawsuit against Facebook last year alleging that the social media giant violated antitrust laws. Although both the Instagram photosharing and WhatsApp deals were reviewed by FTC, it has now asked for a judge’s intervention to reverse them.

Open meetings were established by the FTC after Lina Khan (progressive) was elected as chair. The FTC also voted in favor of removing Trump-era guidelines on vertical deals. Republicans Noah Phillips, and Wilson were against the decision.

According to the Justice Department, it said that they were reviewing both horizontal and vertical merger guidelines.

“The department’s review has already identified several aspects of the guidelines that deserve close scrutiny, and we will work closely with the FTC to update them as appropriate,” Richard Powers, acting head of the antitrust division, said in a statement.

Although vertical deals are rarely blocked by the FTC, the FTC recently sought to have a judge stop Illumina (NASDAQ) from buying Grail. They want to sell a test that can diagnose many types of cancer.

Five commissioners approved a policy statement regarding a rule that requires consumers to be informed of any unauthorised use of their health information. A process was established to allow for input regarding potential regulations.

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