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FTC revamps merger reviews

The Federal Trade Commission has "streamlined" its merger-review process.

It issued new guidelines Wednesday for cutting down on the workload -- both
for the commission and the parties involved -- when the FTC seeks additional
information in so-called second requests.

The FTC and the Department of Justice currently handle merger reviews of media and
telecommunications companies, negotiating between themselves on a case-by-case
basis (a plan for a more formal divvying of merger-review responsibilities was
nixed earlier this year after opposition from the Hill).

"Because staff never knows merging companies as well as the companies know
themselves," the FTC said in releasing the new guidelines, "the typical second
request is often broader than it needs to be. The staff knows this, and it will
cooperate -- quickly -- in negotiating limits to the second request. Also, bureau management is taking an active role in monitoring second-request
negotiations, and the bureau will become involved very quickly if necessary."

The changes are the result of a best-practices review initiated in March, and
they are meant to reduce the burdens on the affected parties and to better target
second requests and expedite merger reviews.

Among the host of changes are refining and limiting electronic-archive
searches, limiting electronic-mail searches -- taking into account different levels of
employee -- and no longer treating the inadvertent release of privileged material as
a waiver of privilege or work-product protections. Such material will be
returned instead.