DOJ wants monopolists to play nicer

Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino, left, and Ticketmaster Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff, right, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Health care isn't the only target of reform for the Obama administration. Today it announced it's getting tough on corporate monopolies. The Justice Department started off the morning by tearing up a Bush administration report about dealing gently with monopolists -- or companies with huge market shares. Then the new antitrust chief started to explain the new policy shift for big business. Jill Barshay reports.


JILL BARSHAY: The Bush administration never filed a single case against a company for violating anti-monopoly laws. Obama's new antitrust chief Christine Varney promised to prevent big businesses from using their power to squelch smaller competitors.

CHRISTINE Varney: It is time for the antitrust division to step up its efforts.

It wasn't clear whom Varney would go after first.

Herb Hovenkamp is an antitrust expert at the University of Iowa College of Law. He said firms like Microsoft and Intel need to watch out. For not sharing information with rivals. Or for giving deep discounts to computer makers who don't buy competitors' chips.

HERB Hovenkamp: That will bring us more closely into alignment with Europe, who takes a much more aggressive position on these things than we do.

But Hovenkamp doesn't think Obama is going to break up monopolies, just make them play nicer with the competition.

Mark Kovner is an antitrust lawyer at Kirkland and Ellis. He expects his practice -- defending big businesses -- to get a lot busier.

MARK Kovner: In an economy that's experiencing some difficulties, people often resort to anti-competitive agreements as their back is against the wall, and their profits are going down, and they need to maintain their market share, and they need to make more money.

Kovner says he expects the pharmaceutical industry to be in the hot seat for the deals they strike to delay the production of cheaper, generic drugs.

I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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