| WASHINGTON, March 14
WASHINGTON, March 14 The Senate's antitrust
panel will focus on the transportation, communications and
healthcare industries, among others, in coming weeks, Senator
Amy Klobuchar, the panel's new chairwoman, said on Thursday.
Klobuchar told Reuters the Senate Judiciary Committee's
subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer
rights would also likely hold an oversight hearing soon to hear
from the new leadership at the Justice Department's antitrust
division and the Federal Trade Commission.
But the subcommittee's first task will be considering US
Airways' proposed deal to buy American Airlines. Witnesses will
include US Airways Chief Executive Douglas Parker and
AMR Corp and American Airlines President Thomas
Horton, according to the committee's website.
The $11 billion all-stock deal, announced in February, would
create the world's largest air carrier.
That deal, along with future telecommunications deals and
certain mergers between healthcare companies, could have major
effects on consumers, said Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota.
"We will see more mergers and it's certainly worth focusing
in those areas," she said.
In the oversight hearing, which Klobuchar said would be held
in April, the subcommittee would hear from Bill Baer, who was
confirmed as head of the Justice Department's antitrust division
in December, and Edith Ramirez, who became chairwoman of the
Federal Trade Commission in early March.
"We can go from deal to deal on the committee and that's
always important, but we don't want to lose the general
oversight. An oversight hearing is different than just being
critical," said Klobuchar.
The FTC and Justice Department share the work of assessing
mergers to ensure they are legal. The Justice Department also
investigates allegations of corporate price fixing.
"I think that it will be good to get their view of where
they're going," she said.
The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to stop a major
beer deal involving Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and Grupo
Modelo while the FTC is looking at high-profile
mergers like the proposed Office Depot Inc deal to buy
rival office supplier OfficeMax.
Klobuchar said the panel would also look at deals in which
brand-name drug companies resolve patent litigation with
potentially infringing generic firms by reaching a settlement
that delays a generic version of a drug in exchange for a
The Supreme Court is hearing a "pay-for-delay" case later
this month, and Klobuchar has paired with Senator Chuck
Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, to introduce legislation to
make such deals illegal.
The FTC said in January that brand name drug firms reached
agreements with generic manufacturers 40 times in the latest
fiscal year, delaying the arrival of cheaper drugs to market.
That was up from 28 the previous year and the highest since the
FTC started tracking them.
"These kinds of agreements, that essentially prohibit
customers for getting cheaper drugs, are a real problem," said
She also said that she would try again to push for
legislation that would repeal antitrust exemptions for freight
Power companies, especially smaller ones, back the measure
because they say railroads have sharply raised rates for
shipping coal. Railroads say the exemptions are necessary for