Amy Klobuchar proposes antitrust overhaul to crack down on monopolies

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar unveiled a plan to overhaul the nation’s antitrust laws by lowering the standards used to curb dominant forces’ power over the market and increasing funding for enforcers to go after alleged monopolies.

The Minnesota Democrat now in charge of a key antitrust panel in the Senate is using the “Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act” to put more than Big Tech companies on notice, but much of corporate America as well.

“The civil remedies currently available to cure violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act, including injunctions, equitable monetary relief, and private damages, have not proven sufficient, on their own, to deter anticompetitive conduct,” reads Ms. Klobuchar’s proposed bill. “In some cases, effective deterrence requires the imposition of civil penalties, alone or in combination with existing remedies, including structural relief, behavioral relief, private damages, and equitable monetary relief, including disgorgement and restitution.” 

Ms. Klobuchar’s legislation argues that federal antitrust enforcement budgets have failed to keep pace with economic growth. Her legislation aims to make dominant companies show that their conduct does not present an “appreciable risk of harming competition.” 

“Let me be clear: I don’t want to punish success,” Ms. Klobuchar said Thursday morning on CNBC. “When we talk about structural remedies and breaking things up, those companies would then be unleashed to do even more. And my concern is that, while we’re seeing really good things happening, we also know there’s really bad things happening.”

Some liberal activists are cautiously optimistic about Ms. Klobuchar’s proposal. The American Economic Liberties Project cheered Ms. Klobuchar’s enthusiasm for new antitrust action but also raised concerns that she did not pursue aggressive enough changes. 

“In this initial legislative package, we are particularly supportive of the inclusion of bright-line rules, such as the structural presumption that would effectively bar very large corporations from engaging in [mergers and acquisitions] activity,” Sarah Miller, American Economic Liberties Project executive director, said in a statement. “We have concerns, however, about aspects of the legislation that retain the ‘rule of reason’ framework that grants judges wide discretion to arbitrarily or narrowly interpret antitrust law, and look forward to continuing to engage on that longer-term challenge.” 

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