Antitrust, Institutions, and Merger Control

Competition Policy and Antitrust

Article Snapshot


Daniel Sokol


George Mason Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 4, 2010


This article analyzes the impact that institutions, such as the court system, have on antitrust regulation.

Policy Relevance

Institutional analysis provides a mechanism to better weigh the costs and benefits of different ways of regulating antitrust institutions and anticompetitive behavior in general.

Main Points

  • Antitrust regulation is an attempt by the government to prevent unfair anticompetitive activity in the open market.  This regulation is provided by antitrust agencies, in the U.S. that is the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Antitrust institutions are companies, agencies, or entities that affect the implementation of antitrust regulation; some of the larger institutions directly affect the implementation of antitrust regulation in their jurisdiction, such as the market, the courts, antitrust agencies, and the legislature.
  • The role of antitrust institutions in antitrust regulation has been largely overlooked in the past because the focus has been on individual cases and their impact.  However, it is important to view the larger picture and the role that institutions play in it in order to better weigh the potential costs and benefits of different antitrust institutional designs.
  • Merger control is the series of limitations and restrictions placed on the joining of two companies.  The effect that antitrust institutions have on this area of antitrust regulation is important and can give key insight into merger control because very few merger cases are decided by the courts.
  • Two surveys were conducted in order to test the effect that antitrust institutions had on merger control.  A number of conclusions can be drawn from the surveys:

    • Overall there has been an increased convergence in the policies of antitrust institutions, but there has also been some divergence between the DOJ and the FTC.
    • The ability of the courts to understand merger cases has improved, but still contains significant variation across jurisdictions.
    • Suits brought by private individuals are not particularly effective in controlling anticompetitive mergers.

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