Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) is demanding to see the names of outside
parties and associated records connected to the new merger-review agreement
between the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission that gave the
DOJ power over media deals.
Hollings, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is unhappy with the
agreement and the manner in which the agencies went about their deliberations.
He plans to conduct a 'formal review' of the agreement and how it was
Under the agreement, announced last week, the DOJ will analyze all media
mergers for antitrust purposes, ending a tradition in which the DOJ and the FTC
bargained as media deals were filed for antitrust approval.
The FTC, for example, reviewed America Online Inc.'s merger with Time Warner
Inc., while the DOJ scrubbed AT&T Corp.'s two big cable deals.
'I view this as a substantial change in antitrust-enforcement policy and one
that only Congress should determine,' Hollings said in a March 11 letter to FTC
chairman Timothy Muris and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Hollings indicated that the FTC's role in reviewing media mergers should be
preserved because the commission is an independent agency with bipartisan
leadership, while the DOJ is part of the executive branch led by presidential
Hollings also complained that the deal was crafted with the help of outside
lawyers with business before both agencies and that public-interest groups were
shut out of the discussions.
'These actions not only raise questions about possible conflicts of interest,
but they clearly were inappropriate given the ramifications of the agreement
regarding antitrust-enforcement policy,' Hollings said.
In a prepared statement, Muris said the FTC would respond expeditiously to Hollings' letter.
'We believe that a public examination of the new agreement will underscore
the fact that an overhaul of the clearance process was truly needed and that the
new agreement will enhance the quality of antitrust enforcement,' Muris
To assist his committee's review, Hollings requested the names of outside
parties and consultants with whom the agencies spoke.
He is also seeking production of electronic mails and
documents generated by FTC and DOJ officials, as well as outside parties.