In the 1970s, antitrust law was a miasma of nebulous social and economic rulings. Companies rarely knew with certainty beforehand whether a merger or acquisition would run afoul of federal enforcement. Then came Judge Robert Bork.
Beginning with his book, The Antitrust Paradox, he articulated and defended a clear, objective standard that would become the guiding doctrine in U.S. antitrust enforcement. Bork argued that the highest focus of antitrust enforcement actions and rulings should be the effects on the consumer, rather than the myriad and less quantifiable effects on other corporate actors. Rather than looking at the size and structure of the market as an end, antitrust policy became focused almost entirely on the question “What makes consumers better off?”- commonly known as the Consumer Welfare Standard.
But today, with the rise of trillion-dollar corporations, “Big Tech,” and a growing concern that companies are no longer acting in the consumer interest, a 1970’s style of antitrust fever has begun returning to Washington.
Even with the U.S. the most politically divided it has been in modern history, leadership in both parties are calling for stricter antitrust enforcement actions. Republican President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice has just sued Google, alleging that the company’s famous search engine is a monopoly. Meanwhile, the House Committee on the Judiciary chaired by Democrat Jerrold Nadler has issued a report calling for sweeping changes to reform antitrust law.
So what does this all mean for consumers? Should the Consumer Welfare Standard be discarded? Join Consumers’ Research for a discussion on the pros and cons of the changing antitrust framework with two of the most well-regarded experts on the subject, Joshua Wright, University Professor and Executive Director, Global Antitrust Institute at Scalia Law School at George Mason University, and Ashley Baker, Director of Public Policy at Committee for Justice.
Director of Public Policy
Committee for Justice
University Professor and Executive Director, Global Antitrust Institute
Scalia Law School at George Mason University
About our Speakers:
Ashley Baker is the Director of Public Policy at the Committee for Justice. Her focus areas include the Supreme Court, judicial nominations, technology and regulatory policy. Her writing has appeared in Fox News, The Hill, USA Today, RealClearPolitics, The Daily Caller, The American Spectator, and elsewhere. Most recently, Ashley has worked to form a new coalition of groups, the Alliance on Antitrust, which was established to address calls to move away from the consumer welfare standard by weaponizing the law, which would leave consumers and conservatives worse off. As an expert on the judicial confirmation process, Ms. Baker worked closely on efforts related to the confirmations of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and has served as a speaker on the topic for RNLA. Most of Ashley’s work is at the intersection of the courts, regulation, and technology. Ashley engages in policy and legal analysis and outreach on legislation and regulations related to these issues by writing op-eds, letters to Congress for committee hearings, and regulatory comments to a broad array of executive agencies including the FTC, NTIA, FCC, EPA, DOL, SEC, and the DOJ Antitrust Division. Ashley is an active member of the Federalist Society, where she serves as an expert on the Regulatory Transparency Project’s working groups on Antitrust and Consumer Protection and Cyber and Privacy.
Joshua D. Wright is University Professor and the Executive Director of the Global Antitrust Institute at Scalia Law School at George Mason University. Professor Wright also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Economics. In 2013, the Senate unanimously confirmed Professor Wright as a member of the FTC. He rejoined Scalia Law School as a full-time faculty member in 2015. Professor Wright is a leading scholar in antitrust law, economics, intellectual property, and consumer protection, and has published more than 100 articles and book chapters, co-authored a leading antitrust casebook, and edited several book volumes. He was awarded the Paul M. Bator Award by the Federalist Society in 2014. Wright previously served the FTC in the Bureau of Competition as its inaugural Scholar-in-Residence. Wright’s return to the FTC as a Commissioner marked his fourth stint at the agency, after having served as an intern in both the Bureau of Economics and Bureau of Competition.