Judd Stone, Joshua Wright
Date Posted: January 2011
There is ample justification for the consensus view that the Horizontal Merger Guidelines have proven one of antitrust law’s great successes in the grounding of antitrust doctrine within economic learning. The foundation of the Guidelines’ success has been its widespread adoption by federal courts, which have embraced its rigorous underlying economic logic and analytical approach to merger analysis under the Clayton Act. While some have suggested that the Guidelines’ most recent iteration might jeopardize this record of judicial adoption by downplaying the role of market definition and updating its unilateral effects analysis, we believe these updates are generally beneficial and include long-overdue shifts away from antiquated structural presumptions in favor of analyzing competitive effects directly where possible. However, this article explores a different reason to be concerned that the 2010 Guidelines may not enjoy widespread judicial adoption: the 2010 Guidelines asymmetrically update economic insights underlying merger analysis. While the 2010 Guidelines’ updated economic thinking on market definition and unilateral effects will likely render the prima facie burden facing plaintiffs easier to satisfy in merger analysis moving forward, and thus have significant practical impact, the Guidelines do not correspondingly update efficiencies analysis, leaving it as largely as it first appeared 13 years earlier. We discuss two well-qualified candidates for “economic updates” of efficiencies analysis under the Guidelines: (1) out-of-market efficiencies and (2) fixed cost savings. We conclude with some thoughts about the implications of the asymmetric updates for judicial adoption of the 2010 Guidelines.