On July 9, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order titled the “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy” (the “Order”), affirming the policy of the Biden administration to “enforce the antitrust laws to combat the excessive concentration of industry, the abuses of market power, and the harmful effects of monopoly and monopsony.” To achieve this, the Order, among other things, directs regulatory agencies to assert oversight over certain business practices and encourages regulatory agencies to develop and/or strengthen rules. The Order includes 72 initiatives by more than a dozen federal agencies.
The Order specifically cites the areas of “labor markets, agricultural markets, Internet platform industries, healthcare markets (including insurance, hospital, and prescription drug markets), repair markets, and United States markets directly affected by foreign cartel activity.” The scope of this order is broad. On the other hand, the Order itself does not create new regulations or laws, leaving the specific implications of it vague.
Although the implications of the Order are not limited to the area of antitrust, the Order reflects the Biden Administration’s emphasis on it. For example, the Order encourages the DOJ and other agencies responsible for banking to update guidelines on banking mergers to provide heightened scrutiny of mergers. The Order also encourages the DOJ and the FTC to challenge prior “bad mergers,” meaning that mergers that went unchallenged under previous administrations may be challenged in the future. Another specific area that the Order focuses on is the right to repair; it encourages the FTC to limit equipment manufacturers from limiting consumer’s rights to repair.
Other affected areas of law include, but are not limited to, labor and employment (e.g. non-compete agreements) and consumer protection (e.g. financial data portability). Corporations with any significant activity in the United States should assess the impact that the Order would have on their businesses and prepare for the materialization of the specific initiatives included in the Order.
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