Biden Antitrust Budget Would Throw Good Taxpayer Money After Bad

With the release of President Biden’s budget today, American companies and innovators should be worried since it includes a big bonus for overzealous regulators who have been suppressing economic activity.

President Biden proposed a massive $100 million increase in funding to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division (ATR). This is a division that already received a $25 million increase in Fiscal Year 2023 on top of a $200 million budget. In FY2022, the ATR budget received a $16.7 million budget increase as well. Further, the last Congress approved legislation to increase the filing fees that companies seeking to merge must pay to this division as well, which is estimated to increase the pool of funding for antitrust enforcers by $1.4 billion over five years. The President’s budget request would give a whopping 44 percent increase above 2023 levels to the ATR.

The reason Americans should be concerned is that the federal government’s twin antitrust enforcement arms, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the DOJ, have been running roughshod over norms and economic activity for two years now. First, the FTC and the DOJ tore up longstanding mergers and acquisitions guidelines, and still haven’t replaced them. And as NTU has written before, last year, the DOJ took significant losses in a string of major cases, including U.S. Sugar/Imperial Sugar, Booz Allen Hamilton/EverWatch, UnitedHealth Group/Change Healthcare, and even on a chicken price-fixing case. The lead DOJ antitrust attorney even recently stated, “If we take our mandate seriously, we need to acknowledge the possibility that sometimes a court might not agree with us — and yet go to court anyway.” Taxpayers should not be on the hook for funding further meritless lawsuits against American companies conducting normal economic activity. This could lead to a “death by a thousand cuts” approach to enforcement that will harm America’s competitive edge in commerce and waste more taxpayer dollars. NTU urges Congress to reject the President’s budget increase for the DOJ antitrust division and instead examine meaningful cuts to rein in their spurious lawsuit spree.