Should Antitrust Consent Decrees Regulate Post-Merger Pricing?
Competitors proposing to merge sometimes propose price regulation in a consent decree as a condition of receiving merger approval. Antitrust enforcement agencies in the United States have been reluctant to use such price-regulating decrees, as they suffer from practical problems in implementation. It is less recognized, however, that the use of consent decrees to regulate post-merger prices may be unlawful. Such decrees exceed the scope of antitrust law and blur the distinction between the legislative power to regulate prices and the executive power to enforce the antitrust laws. Despite the willingness of merging parties to accept price regulation in consent decrees, economic and constitutional considerations counsel against antitrust enforcement agencies adopting this practice.