Warren, Wyden Call on Justice Department to Closely Scrutinize PGA Tour-LIV-Saudi Investment Fund Golf Merger for Potential Antitrust Violations
Washington, D.C. – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (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 are calling 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.
“The PGA-LIV deal would make a U.S. organization complicit – and force American golfers and their fans to join this complicity – in the Saudi regime’s latest attempt to sanitize its abuses by pouring funds into major sports leagues… Significantly, the deal appears to have a substantial adverse impact on competition, violating several provisions of U.S. antitrust law, regardless of whether the deal is structured as a merger or some sort of joint venture,” wrote the senators.
The senators note that the proposed PGA-LIV deal would allow Saudi Arabia to “sportswash” its egregious human right record which includes routinely harassing and harshly prosecuting individuals for peaceful expression or association; executing individuals (including children) for robbery and drug-related crimes after rigged trials, increasingly including through mass executions; and directing the extrajudicial murder of U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi.
The senators raise serious concerns that the proposed PGA-LIV deal would violate several provisions of antitrust law:
- Section 1 of the Sherman Act criminalizes actions “in restraint of trade or commerce,” including collusive schemes like price fixing, wage fixing, and market allocation. The PGA-LIV deal, as described in the June 6 announcement, would be a clear violation if it is a joint venture, giving PGA Tour and PIF control over all significant aspects of U.S. commercial golf operations, including contracts with U.S. golfers and their opportunities to compete, television rights, cost of attendance to elite golf events, and merchandise.
- Under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, it is also illegal “to monopolize any part of … trade or commerce.” The point of the deal is, as PGA Tour has stated, “the removal of rivalry,” “to take the competitor off the board,” and “to be able to control the direction going forward.” These public statements unmistakably communicate the PGA Tour’s intentions, which are to monopolize professional golf operations in the U.S. and around the world.
- Section 7 of the Clayton Act prohibits mergers and acquisitions that may “substantially lessen competition” or “create a monopoly.” The PGA Tour brazenly announced the deal as an agreement to “merge commercial operations under common ownership.”
“This deal deserves serious and urgent attention by U.S. antitrust agencies. We urge the DOJ and the Antitrust Division to allocate sufficient resources to closely scrutinize the proposed deal including a careful review of the overt monopolistic goals of the parties and the potential consequences of the PGA Tour and LIV’s complete control over professional golf in the United States,” concluded the senators.
Senator Warren has called on government regulators to combat market concentration, monopolies, and anticompetitive practices across the economy:
- 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 Federal Trade Commission (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 (STB), 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 Senator sent the letter following 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 the agency to closely scrutinize two pending big 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, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) 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.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), 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 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.
- On March 16, 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 DOJ 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 Representative Jones, along with Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Sanders and Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Porter, Schakowsky, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Jonathan Kanter and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, expressing concerns about Frontier Airlines’s proposed acquisition of Spirit Airlines.
- In February 2022, Senator Warren and 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-Texas), 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.
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