WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - U.S. Federal Trade
Commission staff presented data on Wednesday on small
acquisitions by five big technology companies, and the agency
scrapped guidelines on vertical mergers which combine a company
with a supplier -- both steps indicating plans to be tougher on
Following a study begun during the Trump administration, the
FTC staff found that Facebook, Alphabet's Google
, Amazon.com, Apple and Microsoft
together had 616 acquisitions from 2010 to 2019 that
were above $1 million but too small to be reported to antitrust
agencies, among other findings.
Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, a Democrat, said looking at
deals individually was inadequate. "I think of serial
acquisitions as a Pac-Man strategy. Each individual merger
viewed independently may not seem to have significant impact.
But the collective impact of hundreds of smaller acquisitions,
can lead to a monopolistic behavior," she said.
Commissioner Christine Wilson, a Republican, called for a
similar study on health care mergers.
The FTC sued Facebook last year, alleging the social media
company broke antitrust law. It has asked a judge to undo
Facebook's deals for photosharing app Instagram and messaging
app WhatsApp although both were reviewed by the agency.
The FTC, which began holding open meetings after progressive
Lina Khan became chair in June, also voted to withdraw Trump-era
guidelines regarding vertical deals. Republicans Wilson and Noah
Phillips opposed the decision.
The Justice Department said in a statement it was reviewing
both vertical merger guidelines and guidelines on horizontal
deals, or mergers of competitors.
"The departments review has already identified several
aspects of the guidelines that deserve close scrutiny, and we
will work closely with the FTC to update them as appropriate,"
Richard Powers, acting head of the antitrust division, said in a
The FTC rarely seeks to stop vertical deals but recently
asked a judge to block biotech company Illumina's deal
to buy Grail. The companies seek to market a blood test
to diagnose dozens of types of cancer.
The five commissioners voted along party lines to approve a
policy statement on a rule requiring consumers be notified of
any unauthorized use of health data. Commissioners also approved
a process for accepting input on potential rules.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Aurora Ellis and David