One year ago tomorrow the Amazon/Whole Foods merger closed, following its approval by the FTC. The merger was something of a flashpoint in the growing populist antitrust movement, raising some interesting questions — and a host of objections from a number of scholars, advocates, journalists, antitrust experts, and others who voiced a range of possible problematic outcomes.
Under settled antitrust law — evolved over the last century-plus — the merger between Amazon and Whole Foods was largely uncontroversial. But the size and scope of Amazon’s operation and ambition has given some pause. And despite the apparent inapplicability of antitrust law to the array of populist concerns about large tech companies, advocates nonetheless contend that antitrust should be altered to deal with new threats posed by companies like Amazon.
For something of a primer on the antitrust debate surrounding Amazon, listen to ICLE’s Geoffrey Manne and Open Markets’ Lina Khan on Season 2 Episode 1 of Briefly, a podcast produced by the University of Chicago Law Review.
On August 28, Truth on the Market and the International Center for Law & Economics hosted a blog symposium discussing the impact of the merger.
One year on, we asked antitrust scholars and other experts to consider:
- What has been the significance of the Amazon/Whole Foods merger?
- How has the merger affected various markets and the participants within them (e.g., grocery stores, food delivery services, online retailers, workers, grocery suppliers, etc.)?
- What, if anything, does the merger and its aftermath tell us about current antitrust doctrine and our understanding of platform markets?
- Has a year of experience borne out any of the objections to the merger?
- Have the market changes since the merger undermined or reinforced the populist antitrust arguments regarding this or other conduct?
We lined up an outstanding and diverse group of scholars to discuss these issues.
- Robert D. Atkinson, President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
- Dirk Auer, Research Fellow, Liege Competition and Innovation Institute
- Jarod M. Bona, CEO & Attorney, BonaLaw PC, and The Antitrust Attorney Blog
- Eric Fruits, Chief Economist, International Center for Law & Economics
- Steve Horwitz, Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise, Ball State University
- Steven Levitsky, Attorney, BonaLaw PC, and The Antitrust Attorney Blog
- Geoffrey A. Manne, President & Founder, International Center for Law & Economics
- Will Rinehart, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy, American Action Forum
- Christopher L. Sagers, Distinguished Professor of Law, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
- Hal Singer, Principal, Economists Incorporated; Adjunct professor, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
- Kristian Stout, Associate Director of Innovation Policy, International Center for Law & Economics
Symposium Posts (in order of posting)
- Symposium Introduction
- Amazon and Whole Foods, Historically Considered (Steve Horwitz)
- Amazon-Whole Foods: The Speculation Then, the Evidence Today (Eric Fruits)
- Amazon/Whole Foods: What Me Worry (Robert D. Atkinson)
- The Lasting Legacy of the Amazon-Whole Foods Merger Will Likely Be the Spread of Grocery Tech (Will Rinehart)
- It’s Not Time To Panic About Amazon’s Purchase of Whole Foods. Yet. (Hal Singer)
- The Amazon / Whole Foods overreaction: Antitrust populism exposed (Dirk Auer)
- Are the antitrust laws any defense to the real dangers of mega-mergers and big technology power aggregation? (Jarod M. Bona & Steven Levitsky)
- Whole Foods? Seriously? Why Are We Talking About Whole Foods? (Christopher Sagers)
- The Amazon-Whole Foods merger: Natural and organic competition in the evolving grocery industry (Geoffrey A. Manne & Kristian Stout)
- Symposium Wrap-up