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Going to the numbers on Justice's antitrust activity

Is the pendulum on antitrust enforcement at the Department of Justice swinging back to a much stricter era under President Obama?

Some data from the website of the Department of Justice, flagged by Josh Wright at Truth on the Market:

[Note: Section 2 is the part of the Sherman Act that bans companies deemed monopolies from using that market dominance to expand their power.]

section2activity1.png

As Wright notes, case counts alone aren't a good way to measure an agency's effectiveness. And yes, we are looking at a single data point under the Obama administration. But this gives a solid view of the benchmark under President Bush. If Christine Varney, DOJ's antitrust chief, is in fact spearheading a 180-degree turn from the prior era, she's still just warming up.

Meanwhile the Federal Trade Commission seems to be kicking into a higher gear. Witness Wednesday's deal with Intel. The settlement signaled the FTC's willingness to use Section 5 of the FTC Act, which has a wider purview than the Sherman Act, to pursue antitrust cases.

As Chairman Jon Leibowitz said yesterday, "Until recently the Commission has been reluctant to use that authority, but as some courts have begun to adopt what might be considered a cramped view of the antitrust laws, it's more important than ever that we use this authority to protect consumers."

By Jia Lynn Yang  |  August 5, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Antitrust  
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