WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bob Goodlatte, outgoing chair of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, pressed the Justice Department’s Makan Delrahim on Wednesday to support legislation that would make it easier for the U.S. government to sue to stop OPEC members from pushing up oil prices.
Goodlatte, a Republican, noted that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed this month to cut production to push up oil prices, something that would normally violate U.S. law.
“The fact that OPEC is not being held accountable for its anticompetitive behavior makes a mockery of U.S. antitrust law,” said Goodlatte, who asked Delrahim if the administration would support the bill, called the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act of 2018.
“The administration continues to study the legislation,” Delrahim said at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel.
In a wide-ranging hearing, the Democrats, who will take over leadership of the House of Representatives come January, urged tougher enforcement of antitrust law to address rising drug, gasoline and other prices as well as frustratingly slow wage growth.
“It’s clear to me that we are in a monopoly moment. Too many Americans know that our economy is not working for them,” said David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who is expected to chair the committee as of January, told Delrahim and the Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons.
Cicilline also raised concerns about Alphabet’s Google, particularly accusations that it uses search dominance to steer consumers to other of their products.
U.S. Representative Hank Johnson, a Democrat From Georgia, also pressed Delrahim on whether the Trump administration intervened in the Justice Department’s decision to sue to stop AT&T Inc from buying Time Warner. The president had been critical of the deal and had famously tangled with Time Warner’s CNN.
Delrahim once again denied that the White House played a role in making the decision to sue, saying “absolutely not.”
Several lawmakers expressed concern about companies requiring workers to sign non-compete agreements that would make it harder for them to quit to work for a competitor. Others worried about companies agreeing to not hire away each others’ workers, so called no-poach agreements.
Both Simons and Delrahim said that investigators look at labor markets as part of an antitrust investigation.
Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Diane Craft