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Op-ed: Recent antitrust proposals could ‘throw sand in the gears’ of economic recovery by stalling M&A

Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks at the Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., February 7, 2020.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

There is growing hostility to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) among an increasing number of policymakers in Washington, D.C.

Last year, some in Congress called for a merger moratorium banning all M&A during the pandemic. Then, in a surprise announcement, the FTC — over the objection of two commissioners — said it would no longer quickly approve the vast majority of transactions notified to the government that cannot plausibly reduce competition. Most recently, Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced antitrust reform legislation that would give the government even greater power to block M&A it deems problematic.

While these proposals are well-intentioned, they threaten to throw sand in the gears of the economy and to do far more harm than good. Adding friction to M&A activity has the potential to stall capital markets, reduce innovation and investment, and frustrate economic growth. And it does so at precisely the wrong time — when the nation is attempting an economic recovery during an ongoing global pandemic that has upended how we work.

Antitrust has seized lawmakers interested like no other time in modern memory. Se