The passing of the Merger Filing Fee Modernisation Act 2022 on Thursday September 29th by 242 votes to 184, marks a significant stamp of approval for the vigorous regulatory approach of Biden’s appointees at the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice and White House. The Bill increases filing fees on large transactions (up to $2.25 million for deals over $5 billion), whilst cutting fees for smaller transactions. It is estimated that the Act will raise roughly $1.4 billion for the FTC over the next five years. [i]
This is bad news for big business of all stripes, but tech giants have cause to feel particularly singled out. Indeed, the package also incorporated two other bills: the Foreign Merger Subsidy Disclosure Act and the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act, the latter of which was introduced just days after Google filed for the transfer of Texas AG Paxton’s antitrust suit to its home court.
Importantly, the passing of the Merger Act demonstrates an appetite for more stringent antitrust regulation, the ire of which currently seems firmly set on Big Tech. Sacha Haworth, the Executive Director at the Tech Oversight Project, has stated that the vote bodes well for the two other key Congressional Bills. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act both focus on product self-preferencing on gatekeeper tech platforms, and would therefore represent a far more targeted attack against Big Tech.
Optimism would seem well-founded. The cash-flush industry, which has spent nearly half a billion over the last decade to get its way in Washington, could not sway legislators, despite, to borrow Haworth’s words, “throwing the kitchen sink” at the Merger Filing Fee Act. [ii] So long as this bipartisan spirit can hold, it would seem the tech giants have little recourse against further legislative blows.
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