March 06, 2024

Warren, Klobuchar, Colleagues Raise Alarm on Funding Restrictions For Department of Justice’s Antitrust Funding

The current appropriations bill undercuts the Antitrust Division’s ability to protect America’s small businesses, workers, farmers, and families.

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington D.C. - U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) along with 26 colleagues sent a letter to leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging them to strike parts of the Commerce, Science, and Justice (CJS) appropriation bill that block the Antitrust Division’s ability to use the fees collected during its merger review process. The harmful provisions conflict with Congress’s clear intent to increase antitrust funding through the  bipartisan Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act of 2022. 

“Wall Street banks and Big Tech companies have an army of lawyers and near limitless resources to ram through bad deals that stifle innovation and increase prices,” said Senator Warren. “Restricting funding for antitrust enforcement will undercut the Justice Department’s ability to uphold the law and block anticompetitive mergers. Congress needs to fix this blunder and give the DOJ’s antitrust division full access to the fees it collects when reviewing mergers.”

In December 2022, Congress enacted the bipartisan Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, which increased the filing fees required for large corporations undergoing merger review. This change was intended to generate additional revenue for the Antitrust Division, in support of the Division’s important work. The Antitrust Division has been partially funded through these merger filing fees since 1989.

On March 6, the House of Representatives took up appropriations language that caps funding to the Antitrust Division at $233 million for FY2024, regardless of fees collected. The lawmakers explained that “the cap on merger fees available to the Antitrust Division will tie its hands to do [its] work in the event of a significant increase in merger and acquisition activity because the work would increase without any commensurate increase in funds.”

“It was Congress’s intent, and consistent with decades-old precedent to allow the Antitrust Division to retain the increase in merger filing fees,” continued the lawmakers. “Ahead of Wednesday’s vote in the House of Representatives, we urge appropriations leadership to (1) strike the phrase “not to exceed $233,000,000 to be derived from” from the first proviso of the bill text regarding Antitrust Division funding, and strike the final proviso that states the same, and (2) strike all but the first sentence of the conference report section regarding Antitrust Division funding.” 

In addition to Warren and Klobuchar, the letter was signed by Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Representatives Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Pramilla Jayapal (D-Wash.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Chris Deluzio (D-Pa.), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). 

Senator Warren has led the fight against corporate consolidation and anticompetitive behavior across the economy:

  • On February 29, 2024, Senator Warren sent a letter to Lina Khan, Chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), urging the FTC to closely scrutinize Choice Hotels’ attempted hostile takeover of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and oppose the deal if it violated antitrust law. 
  • In February 2024, Senator Warren led 12 lawmakers in a letter calling on regulators to block Capital One’s plan to acquire Discover Financial Services to protect consumers and financial stability. 
  • In December 2023, Senators Warren, Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Representatives Summer Lee (D-Pa.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to FTC, asking it to oppose the proposed merger of major grocery store chains Kroger and Albertsons, which would harm consumers, workers, and the grocery industry. 
  • In November 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to Chair Khan and FTC Commissioners Alvaro Bedoya and Rebecca Slaughter, expressing disappointment with the FTC’s proposed consent order allowing pharmaceutical giant Amgen to move forward with its acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics and urging the FTC to reject the use of behavioral and structural remedies going forward.
  • In October 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) sent a letter to the DOJ Antitrust Division and FTC, urging them to carefully scrutinize UnitedHealth Group’s pending acquisition of Amedisys. The lawmakers also urged the agencies to scrutinize similar deals, reject behavioral or structural remedies, and oppose any health care acquisition that would threaten competition, increase prices, and reduce quality of care. 
  • In September 2023, Senator Warren (D-Mass.) and Representatives John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), sent a follow up letter to the Department of Defense (DoD) raising concerns about the approval of the of the L3Harris-Aerojet merger, asking DoD about enforcement and oversight mechanisms to maintain competition, and reiterating the need for transparency as DoD assesses the national security risks of proposed mergers and acquisitions. 
  • In September 2023, Senator Warren, Representative Becca Balint (D-Vt.), and a bicameral group of lawmakers, submitted a public comment to the FTC and DOJ in support of the agencies’ proposed merger guidelines.
  • In June 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) led colleagues in a letter to the Department of Transportation, urging it to resist JetBlue’s misleading tactics to rig the Department’s evaluation of the airline’s application to consolidate with Spirit Airlines and urging it to block the merger. 
  • In June 2023, Senators Warren and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to the DOJ, raising serious concerns about the deal announced between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) to consolidate global golf-related business, including LIV Golf (LIV). The senators called on DOJ's Antitrust Division to closely scrutinize the PGA-LIV deal and oppose it if it would reduce competition in violation of antitrust law. 
  • In May 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging the Commission to continue its thorough review of Standard General’s proposed acquisition of Tegna regardless of pressure by supporters of the deal, and to use its statutory authority to block this $5.4 billion deal.
  • In March 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to the FTC, calling on it to carefully scrutinize CVS Health Corp’s pending acquisition of Oak Street Health, Inc., and oppose any health care acquisition that would threaten competition, increase prices, and reduce the quality of care. 
  • In March 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to the Surface Transportation Board, urging it to block the proposed merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern, which would combine the sixth- and seventh-largest U.S. railroads by revenue. The letter followed the derailment and massive chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio and highlighted the risks from years of cost-cutting and deregulation of the nations’ railways.
  • In January 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to the FTC urging it to oppose L3Harris Technologies merging with Aerojet Rocketdyne.
  • In January 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to the FTC, urging the agency to closely scrutinize two pharmaceutical mergers: Amgen and Horizon Therapeutics, and Indivior and Opiant.
  • In January 2023, Senator Warren sent a letter to the FCC, urging the agency to block hedge fund Standard General’s proposed acquisition of broadcaster Tegna, Inc. 
  • In October 2022, Senators Warren, Sanders  and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan urging the agency to oppose Kroger’s proposed $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons, which could increase the companies’ monopoly power and hurt both companies’ workers and consumers. The lawmakers also raised concerns about an unusual $4 billion dividend payout by Albertsons that is part of the deal.
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren and Representatives Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Porter, Pocan, Jayapal, and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), sent a letter to the FTC, calling on the agency to oppose Amazon’s proposed $1.65 billion acquisition of iRobot, raising concerns about Amazon’s anticompetitive practices that put consumers and their privacy at risk.
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, urging the Department of Transportation to use its full statutory authority to address consolidation in the airline industry and expressing serious concerns about the proposed merger between JetBlue and Spirit Airlines.
  • In June 2022, Senators Warren, Sanders, and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Representative Porter (D-Calif.) sent a letter to DOJ expressing skepticism regarding a bid from a private equity firm to acquire the Enfamil infant formula manufacturing arm of Reckitt Benckiser Group and how such a transaction, amid the nation’s ongoing infant formula shortage, could harm competition or prolong this crisis. 
  • In May 2022, Senators Warren and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced a bipartisan joint resolution that would direct the FTC to report to Congress within one year on the extent of anti-competitive practices and violations of antitrust law in the beef-packing industry, including price-fixing, anti-competitive acquisitions, dominance of supply chains, and monopolization.
  • In March 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act to help stomp out rampant industry consolidation that allows companies to raise consumer prices and mistreat workers. The bill would ban the biggest, most anticompetitive mergers and give the Department of Justice and FTC the teeth to reject deals in the first instance without court orders and to break up harmful mergers.
  • In March 2022, Senator Warren and then-Representative Jones, along with Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Sanders and Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Porter, Schakowsky, and Ocasio-Cortez) sent a letter to Jonathan Kanter and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, expressing concerns about Frontier Airlines’ proposed acquisition of Spirit Airlines. 
  • In February 2022, Senator Warren and then-Representative Jones led their colleagues to slam the proposed merger between Sanderson Farms, the third-largest poultry processor, and Wayne Farms, the sixth-largest poultry processor, and called on the DOJ to thoroughly review the deal and step in to prevent harm to American farmers and consumers. 
  • In February 2022, at a hearing, Senator Warren called out corporations for abusing their market power to raise consumer prices and boost profits. 
  • In February 2022, Senator Warren requested the DOJ to take aggressive action against corporations violating antitrust laws to hike prices for consumers. 
  • In January 2022, Senator Warren questioned Federal Reserve nominee Lael Brainard about market concentration and price gouging driving inflation.
  • At a hearing in January 2022, Senator Warren pressed Fed Chair Jerome Powell on the role of corporate concentration in driving up prices for consumers during his renomination hearing to be Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
  • In December 2021, Senator Warren and Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-Texnbas), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jayapal and 29 other lawmakers sent a letter to the DOJ, calling on it to investigate the proposed $43 billion merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia for violations of antitrust laws.
  • In November 2021, Senator Warren requested the DOJ to investigate the poultry industry's anticompetitive behavior as turkey and chicken prices soared.
  • In June 2021, Senator Warren called on the FTC to engage in a “broad” and “meticulous” review of Amazon's acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios consistent with Section 7 of the Clayton Act, expressing concerns that the acquisition has the potential to harm consumers and workers, and reduce innovation.