FTC chair opposes antitrust law change

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Mar. 22 -- Evidence does not support imposing merger requirements on the oil and gas industry tougher than those applied to other industries, US Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Majoras told the Antitrust Modernization Commission Mar. 21.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has said he plans to introduce legislation to increase federal antitrust authority as a way to protect consumers from oil and gas industry concentration and its potential impact on gasoline prices.

Executives from integrated oil companies testified Mar. 14 before the judiciary committee (OGJ, Mar. 20, 2006, p. 27).

Majoras spoke to the modernization commission, a government advisory committee whose members are studying possible changes to antitrust laws.

Noting that she spoke on her own behalf rather than for the FTC, Majoras said antitrust laws should not be changed to fit particular industries. "Fundamentally, we do not need to make substantive changes to the primary federal antitrust laws," she said.

She said there was no empirical evidence that mergers of oil and gas companies are responsible for high gasoline prices.

"The evidence does not point to mergers as the reason," she said. FTC officials maintain that rising gasoline prices stem from higher crude oil prices worldwide and are unrelated to mergers previously approved by the FTC.

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