Chairman Nadler Statement for Markup of H.R. 3843, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021
Washington, June 23, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 3843, the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021:
"Nearly two years ago to the day, the Judiciary Committee launched a bipartisan investigation into the state of competition in digital markets. The investigation spanned 16 months, culminating in a Majority Staff Report that documented a range of problems affecting competition in the digital economy, and it made a series of recommendations to address these problems.
"The New York Times referred to this as 'the most significant government effort to check the world’s largest tech companies since the government sued Microsoft for antitrust violations in the 1990s.' In a farewell address earlier this year, the former Deputy Attorney General for the Antitrust Division described it as a 'landmark report on market power in digital markets.'
"More critically, the Committee’s extensive documentation of these problems was a clarion call for action. Today, we will answer that call through the consideration of a historic package of bipartisan legislation to restore competition online.
"The bills that the Committee will consider at today’s markup will pave the way for a stronger economy and a stronger democracy for the American people by reining in anti-competitive abuses of the most dominant firms online.
"Each bill is an essential part of a bipartisan plan to level the playing field for innovators, entrepreneurs, and startups—and to bring the benefits of increased innovation and choice to American consumers.
"Our goal should be to ensure that there is a space for opportunity, innovation, and choice to thrive online—for consumers and businesses alike—and that is exactly what these bills accomplish.
"I have long believed that the unchecked concentration of economic power—in any industry—poses a danger to our democracy. Our country, and our political institutions, will be stronger as a result of the important reforms to open markets to new competition that are set forth in the legislation we are considering today.
"The package of bills before the Committee echoes prior legislative efforts to confront abuses of market power that stifle competition and innovation in emerging technology markets. These efforts include the 1992 Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. As President Bill Clinton remarked during the signing of the landmark ‘96 Act, it was designed to promote 'competition as the key to opening new markets and new opportunities.'
"That legislation helped serve as a catalyst for the digital revolution of the past 25 years. Similar to the legislation we are considering today, the Telecommunications Act established nondiscrimination requirements, line-of-business restrictions, and interoperability and data portability mandates for the dominant firms of the day. These prohibitions are well-grounded in long-standing and well-understood antitrust principles that are important complements to robust antitrust enforcement.
"One critical failing of the Telecommunications Act, however, was that it did not prevent the waves of consolidation in the telecommunications market that stymied the pro-competitive goals of the Act. As a result of this consolidation, Americans pay higher prices for critical services, like broadband internet, while millions remain on the wrong side of the digital divide because service is unavailable or unaffordable.
"That is why one critical piece of legislation that we are considering today—Congressman Jeffries’ 'Platform Competition and Opportunity Act'—will tighten merger review for covered platforms to help ensure that we do not repeat this mistake.
"Importantly, we are not alone in taking steps to reign in abuses by dominant online platforms. The United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Union are each considering significant updates to their competition laws governing the digital economy motivated by the same concerns that give rise to the legislation we will consider today.
"For example, following a landmark report by the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority, Great Britain has begun work on a new, pro-competitive regime that is tailored to the most powerful companies in the digital economy.
"Today is the start of an opportunity for the United States to reassert its leadership role on this issue internationally.
"With this package of historic legislation, we have the opportunity to take control of our own destiny—to be a global leader in developing rules of the road for the digital economy.
"We cannot be complacent. We cannot delay.
"I want to thank Chairman Cicilline for his work leading the investigation and the Antitrust Subcommittee on a bipartisan basis. I also want to thank Ranking Member Ken Buck—and all the Members of the Subcommittee, on both sides of the aisle—for their dedication to this work, as well as the Members of the Committee who have contributed to the legislation we will consider today.
"The first bill we will consider is H.R. 3843, the 'Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2021.' This legislation will ensure that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have the resources they need to aggressively enforce the antitrust laws and to protect consumers and competition.
"We have not updated the merger filing fees in more than two decades and the budgets for the antitrust enforcement agencies have not kept pace with the demands placed on them. Officials from both parties agree that these agencies need additional resources to perform their critical work.
"Antitrust enforcement and litigation is hugely expensive and time consuming. For example, the monopolization cases the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission filed last year against Google and Facebook, respectively, may take years to litigate.
"This bipartisan legislation, which passed the Senate earlier this month, will provide more funding for antitrust enforcement by increasing filing fees on the largest transactions while reducing filing fees on smaller transactions. The bill ensures that the mergers that are most likely to consume agency time and resources pay more than those that place less of a burden on the agencies.
"Providing the antitrust agencies with sufficient funding will ensure that they can effectively investigate and litigate cases to stop illegal mergers, to hold monopolists accountable for anticompetitive conduct, and to protect consumers."I want to thank Mr. Neguse and Ms. Spartz, for sponsoring this important, bipartisan legislation, and I urge all Members to support it."