Hollings gets his way

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After Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) made it abundantly clear that he didn't
like a privately negotiated agreement between the Department of Justice
Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission on the way they would assign
merger reviews, the two agencies have backed off.

The FTC and the Antitrust Division in January had decided to predetermine
which agency would "clear," or review and approve or block, all proposed
mergers.

Under the plan, clearance of all media mergers would have fallen to the DOJ.

This in particular irked Hollings, who is also chairman of the Senate
Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the media industry.

Hollings was also upset that the agencies did not make their decision public
or consult Hollings or his staff until the decision was made.

Charles James, assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust
division, attributed the decision to Hollings' ability -- as chairman of the
Senate's Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations subcommittee -- to affect the
budgets of both agencies.

Still, James feels that the process would operate more smoothly if the two
agencies were allowed to use the new procedure: "The department stands by its
view that the agreement was good public policy that was working to make
antitrust enforcement more effective. In fact, since the agreement became
effective, antitrust investigations were being commenced within a matter of
days, and there were no clearance disputes between the
agencies."

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