U.S. needs tougher antitrust enforcement: Biden transition team expert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States should increase enforcement of antitrust laws as part of a general attack on social ills, Bill Baer, who is on President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), said on Thursday.

Baer pointed to multi-year battles that the FTC had to fight a series of hospital mergers as well as its ongoing battle against brand name pharmaceutical companies settling patent litigation by paying generic companies to delay entering the market, so-called pay-for-delay deals. The healthcare industry is one that has seen dizzying price increases.

“We should care too about under enforcement because it’s led to growing concentration in many markets, think agriculture, telecom, wireless, travel, pharma and beer,” he said at an American Bar Association conference.

Two Democratic FTC commissioners, Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Slaughter, have focused on healthcare but lost many fights in the past three years. They dissented on approving health-related deals, including AbbVie’s acquisition of Allergan and Mylan’s acquisition of Pfizer’s Upjohn.

Biden’s antitrust officials, who likely will not be named for months, will press on with the Justice Department’s lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google, or may expand it, experts have agreed. [nL1N2HB0EX] They will also stay the course with a potential FTC lawsuit against Facebook and antitrust probes of Apple and Amazon, experts said.

Other antitrust experts on the Biden transition team include Big Tech critic Gene Kimmelman of Public Knowledge, who is on the Justice Department team, and Sarah Miller, of the American Economic Liberties Project, on Treasury.

Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat whose House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel wrote a massive report on Big Tech, said Thursday that he planned to work with Rep. Ken Buck, a Republican, to draw up antitrust legislation.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by David Gregorio