Client Alert: FTC Reverses Quarter-Century of Enforcement Policy

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In a move widely expected after the Federal Trade Commission’s Democratic majority rescinded a 1995 policy in July, the FTC issued a policy statement yesterday requiring prior approval provisions for settlements in future transactions affecting any relevant market for which they alleged a violation. The 1995 policy was not to require prior approval provisions as part of a consent decree, settlement, or enforcement order absent extraordinary circumstances (typically where one of the parties to the decree had a history of doing anticompetitive transactions below the HSR threshold). Now, the FTC will require a prior approval provision for all merging parties that resolve antitrust issues subject to a Commission Order. The FTC also appears likely to pursue a prior approval order even when the parties abandon a transaction after substantially complying with a Second Request. Under a prior approval provision, the party must obtain the FTC’s permission before consummating any transaction subject to the provision. As the statement suggests, the FTC could simply reject the transaction without having to provide a court with sufficient evidence to show the transaction violates the law.

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