U.S. House advances bill to boost antitrust efforts

The House of Representatives takes up debate of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan in Washington
General view of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to advance a bill that would update fees companies pay for merger reviews and strengthen state attorneys general in antitrust fights, according to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office.

The bill combines measures introduced by Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat, and Representative Ken Buck, a Republican.

The next step is for the full House to vote on final passage.

It would allow state attorneys general to choose which court they want to hear antitrust cases. Defendants would not be allowed to request a change of venue.

Texas, along with other states, brought an antitrust action against Alphabet Inc's <GOOGL.O> Google in 2020 that the search and advertising giant succeeded in moving from Texas to a New York court, angering conservatives.

Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, joined with at least four other California Democrats to urge that the bill be defeated because of the venue measure. California is home to some of the biggest tech companies, including Google and Meta Platforms' (META.O) Facebook.

The measure also would lower the fees paid for antitrust reviews of smaller deals. But bigger deals would be more expensive. Deals worth $5 billion or more would pay $2.25 million to regulators conducting the antitrust review.

The reviews are conducted by the U.S. Justice Department's Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission.

The Senate has passed a bill giving state attorneys general the right to pick the venue for antitrust fights but has not passed a bill to update merger filing fees.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler

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