Antitrust

The Return of Antitrust

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From the New York Times:

President Obama's top antitrust official and some senior Democratic lawmakers are preparing to rein in a host of major industries, including airline and railroad giants […]

Did you know Continental still existed? Anyway, antitrust!

The official, Christine A. Varney, the antitrust chief at the Justice Department, has begun examining complaints by the phone companies Verizon and AT&T that their rivals — major cable operators like Cablevision and Cox Communications — improperly prevent them from buying sports shows and other programs that the cable companies produce, industry lawyers said.

At the request of some lawmakers, notably Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont, Ms. Varney is examining whether small agricultural operations are being hampered unfairly by large food processors, particularly in the milk industry, congressional aides said.

Ms. Varney has also challenged agreements that the Federal Trade Commission and consumer groups say discourage pharmaceutical companies from marketing more generic drugs. And she is examining a settlement between Google and book publishers and authors to make more books available online. […]

It is a major policy reversal from the Bush administration, which did not prosecute cases in which some dominant companies engaged in potentially anticompetitive behavior, often because those officials maintained such behavior was not harmful to consumers.

Note that regulators are taking actions out of worry that some drug companies aren't advertising as much as they should, even as lawmakers are busy pushing legislation to cut back on drug advertising (which will no doubt hurt minority broadcasters, who will no doubt keep asking for a bailout). There is a lesson here.

Reason on antitrust here.