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abbottAlden Abbott is Associate Director, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission. The views expressed below are solely attributable to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Federal Trade Commission or of any individual Federal Trade Commissioner.

As I indicated in my prior blog entry, U.S. competition policy vis-à-vis single firm conduct (“SFC”) is best viewed not in isolation, but, rather, in the context of other jurisdictions’ SFC enforcement philosophies, and efforts to promote greater SFC policy convergence worldwide.  Given the proliferation of competition law regimes, firms that do business in multiple jurisdictions either may have to:  (1) tailor their business plans (marketing and distributional arrangements, joint ventures, pricing policies, etc.) nation-by-nation to satisfy differences in national competition laws (an approach rife with transactions costs); or (2) adopt a single set of policies that meets the competition law requirements of the “most restrictive” jurisdiction (an approach that could yield selection of a “less than optimally efficient” business plan).  A further complication is caused by transactions whose effects spill across jurisdictional boundaries; a transaction that found favor in one jurisdiction may not find favor in other jurisdictions.  To add to the policy complexity, as private rights of action proliferate around the globe, difficult jurisdictional questions and conflict of law issues may be posed in the future; the greater the divergence among antitrust regimes, the higher will be the costs imposed on businesses associated with (ideally) avoiding and (if necessary) ironing out such complications.  Thus, even though there may be good policy justifications (associated with differences among nations in procedure, private enforcement, and other local factors) for some continued differentiation among national competition regimes – reasons that David Evans (see http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1342797) and others have ably expounded upon – there is a sound basis for efforts (rooted in business efficiency and transactions cost avoidance) to promote gradual convergence and thereby avoid the greatest burdens arising from multinational disharmony in this field. Continue Reading…

abbottAlden Abbott is Associate Director, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission. The views expressed below are solely attributable to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Federal Trade Commission or of any individual Federal Trade Commissioner.

Much ink has been spilled concerning the policy split revealed by the Justice Department’s September 2008 Report on Single Firm Conduct (“SFC”) and the Federal Trade Commission’s swift and rather critical rejoinder (issued by three of the four FTC Commissioners). (By “SFC” I refer to actions taken by a “dominant” firm or by an actual or aspiring monopolist.) Among the concerns raised is that the lack of U.S. interagency consensus on SFC enforcement standards may undermine the ability of the United States to influence the development of international norms in this area, and, in particular, to promote convergence toward desirable best practices. These concerns, while understandable, are greatly overblown, in my opinion. As I will explain, work on SFC by leading scholars and agencies world-wide has greatly enhanced understanding of SFC practices in recent years. The September 2008 FTC-DOJ contretemps is a mere “bump in the road” and will not seriously detract from enforcers’ efforts to promote convergence in the SFC area. (However, the pace and direction of convergence efforts, and the desirability of particular SFC enforcements standards, are questions beyond the scope of this blog entry.)

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