States Attorneys General Support Widespread Antitrust Reform

Posted on October 26, 2021, byPaul Napoli

In September 2021, the attorneys general of 32 states sent a letter to both houses of Congress supporting six proposed bills that together provide new tools for pursuing antitrust violations and would increase the role that states can play in enforcement actions. In particular, the bipartisan cadre of AGs support more authority in actions that would typically be handled at a federal level and enhanced ability to initiate antitrust cases at the state level.

The bills largely target the technology industry, where rapid and dynamic expansion can lead to anticompetitive behavior that is not well handled by current antitrust laws. Because those laws have not been substantially overhauled since the rise of tech-industry behemoths in the 1990s and 2000s, they tend to be inadequate to address the way a platform such as Facebook can take ownership of an entire sector, and maintain dominance through acquisitions and preferencing its own services. The new rules that the state attorneys general support would specifically address anticompetitive behavior by technology companies, making those cases easier to pursue.

The AGs’ support for these rules may be a harbinger of a more aggressive posture toward antitrust violations at the state level. While these cases tend to be multijurisdictional and, consequently, led by the federal government, many state attorneys general believe that federal enforcement has been inadequate and that state-led antitrust cases will result in better outcomes.

This article provides greater insight into the six bills supported by the state attorneys’ general, led by Phil Wiser (CO), Douglas Peterson (NE), Letitia James (NY), and Herbert H. Slattery III (TN).