FTC and DOJ Finalized Merger Guidelines

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On December 18, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) jointly issued a significantly revised version of the Merger Guidelines that describes the frameworks the enforcement agencies use when evaluating potential mergers.

The newly finalized Merger Guidelines are the result of a nearly two-year effort that involved both agencies soliciting public input via listening sessions, written comments, and workshops.

The agencies describe the new Merger Guidelines as necessary to address the modern economy and how firms now do business. The Merger Guidelines are broken into multiple sections: Guidelines 1–6 describe the frameworks the agencies use when attempting to identify a merger that the agencies believe raises a prima facie concern, while Guidelines 7–11 explain how to apply those frameworks in specific settings. The guidelines also identify evidence the agencies will consider to potentially rebut an inference of competitive harm. Finally, these guidelines include a discussion of the tools the agencies use when evaluating the relevant facts, the potential harm to competition, and how to define the relevant markets.

The Merger Guidelines are notable for signaling the FTC’s and DOJ’s desire to pursue a more aggressive enforcement agenda, specifically, by lowering the threshold at which proposed mergers will be deemed presumptively anticompetitive by those enforcement agencies. The new guidelines also seek to address relatively new concerns the agencies have identified, such as cross-market transactions and sequences of smaller transactions.

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