Klobuchar antitrust legislation would make it harder for big companies to acquire small ones

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Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Thursday is introducing legislation that would make it harder for big companies displaying anticompetitive behavior to acquire smaller companies.

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The Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act aims to make it easier for lawmakers to push back against anticompetitive conduct and mergers and improve enforcement actions.

"Competition and effective antitrust enforcement are critical to protecting workers and consumers, spurring innovation, and promoting economic equity," Klobuchar said in a statement. "While the United States once had some of the most effective antitrust laws in the world, our economy today faces a massive competition problem. We can no longer sweep this issue under the rug and hope our existing laws are adequate.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, speaks during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee confirmation hearing for Denis McDonough. (Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via AP)

She added that the new legislation "is the first step to overhauling and modernizing our laws so we can effectively promote competition and protect American consumers."

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Klobuchar is a staunch critic of big tech and has pressed the country's largest companies on what appears to be anti-competitive behavior, such as Facebook's purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp, which were approved by the U.S. government. She has also criticized Google's use of customer data to strengthen its leading position in the search engine and digital advertising markets.

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The Minnesota senator and other big tech critics have argued that big companies use their dominant positions to purchase smaller companies and drive out marketplace competition.

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Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ed Markey of Massachusetts are cosponsoring the bill.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., wears a protective mask during a confirmation hearing for Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AP)

The Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act seeks to increase the annual budget for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission; stop anticompetitive mergers by updating Section 7 of the Clayton Act; create a new provision in the Clayton Act to stop "exclusionary conduct" that could lead to "appreciable risk of harming competition"; establish a new FTC division; and introduce reforms implement a series of reforms to prevent anticompetitive behavior.

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Consumer Reports senior policy counsel George Slover commended Klobuchar for the bill.

"Consumer Reports appreciates Senator Klobuchar's steady leadership in working to strengthen our antitrust laws to equip them to protect a competitive marketplace and the benefits that consumers, small businesses, and workers receive from it," Slover said. "This legislation gives our antitrust laws an important re-set. It ensures that harmful merger trends and exclusionary conduct can be stopped before it is too late and the harm is locked in."

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He added that the bill "extends the reach of the law so that blocking others from a fair chance to compete is a violation, even before a monopoly results" and "gives our government the enforcement authority and resources needed for effective deterrence."

The Minnesota senator is expected to formally introduce the bill later on Thursday.

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