Almost exactly a year ago, the Wall Street Journal warned that "U.S. Signals More Scrutiny of Mergers, Antitrust". Just as President Obama had promised in his campaign, antitrust merger review was going to be a lot different from what we'd seen during the Bush Administration: The DOJ Antitrust Division and the FTC wouldn't waste any time showing that there was a new cop on the beat. Except things haven't quite worked out that way--not yet, anyway. The agencies have been busy: DOJ has continued its highly successful criminal prosecutions of price fixing and other hard-core antitrust violations, while the FTC has brought an ambitious case against Intel and is still pursuing longstanding agenda items like its campaign against some pharmaceutical patent infringement settlements.
When it comes to mergers though, does anything stand out? Ticketmaster-LiveNation was a pretty interesting deal, but you wouldn't know it from the DOJ's case. Instead of the provocative vertical (e.g., manufacturer and input supplier) issues that people have been anticipating from the new administration, the case focused on issues peripheral to the deal's potent combination of "the dominant primary ticketing service provider in the United States" and "the country's largest concert promoter." Nor have we seen much interesting merger work from the FTC lately.