DOJ, FTC Schedule Vertical Merger Workshops

The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are teaming up for two public workshops on drafts of new vertical merger guidelines. Vertical mergers are ones that combine different parts of the same supply chain, an AT&T with its video services and Time Warner with its content production, for example. DOJ and the FTC divvy up reviews of mergers for potential anticompetitive effects.

They are also extending the deadline for comment on the proposed guidelines to Feb. 26. It had been Feb. 11.

Related: Trump Administration Proposes New Guidelines for Vertical Mergers

Usually such mergers do not pose as many antitrust issues as horizontal mergers between competitors in the same space--T-Mobile and Sprint for example.

But Department of Justice antitrust chief Makan Delrahim has made it clear there remain antitrust issues with vertical mergers, as was evidence by Justice's attempt to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal.

The workshops will be held March 11 and March 18 to get public input on the draft guidelines released three weeks ago.

“While many vertical mergers are competitively beneficial or neutral, both the Department and the Federal Trade Commission have recognized for over 25 years that some vertical transactions can raise serious concern,” said Delrahim in releasing the draft Jan. 10. "Challenging anticompetitive vertical mergers is essential to vigorous enforcement," said FTC chairman Joseph Simons at the time.

The guidelines do signal that a vertical merger is unlikely to be challenged if the merged parties have less than a 20% share of the market. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.