Today, the American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and US Department of Justice (DOJ) resumed a policy to cut certain merger review processes in response to COVID-19.
Normally companies that are looking to merge have to notify FTC and DOJ ahead of time about mergers that reach certain thresholds. The agencies have 30 days to review and authorize requests or ask for additional information that requires a second waiting period.
FTC and DOJ typically have the ability to end the initial waiting period early without a second request, but in light of coronavirus, early termination was halted. Today’s announcement removes that safeguard and allows expedited mega-mergers to resume.
In response, Amanda Starbuck, Senior Researcher and Food Policy Analyst of Food & Water Action, issued the following statement:
“In a time when Americans are more vulnerable than ever, it is outrageous that our protective agencies are backpedaling on… protections. Early termination of merger requests was halted for a reason. Megamergers threaten the livelihood of small farmers, rural communities, and the health of consumers and the environment. Right now all four of those are debilitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our government should be blocking corporate agricultural consolidation entirely, not fast-tracking megamerger requests. Lax antitrust enforcement has already hindered family farmers and ranchers by reducing competition in supply and demand industries.
“Before coronavirus, we already saw declining farm incomes, stagnant wages and increased layoffs for workers, higher grocery prices and fewer choices for consumers, the erosion of rural economic vitality and a less resilient food system overall. Now we’re seeing all of that culminate as our food systems implode in the face of a pandemic.
“To prioritize public health and safety during this crisis, our elected officials must immediately halt corporate agricultural mergers for the duration of the crisis, and support a longer-term merger moratorium with legislation like the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act of 2019, introduced by Sen. Booker and Rep. Pocan.