Enforcement of Antitrust Laws Can't Be Enforced Due to Cuts

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) - The Justice Department cannot adequately enforce federal antitrust laws because of budget cuts that have reduced funding and staffing, an American Bar Association panel said in a report released Wednesday.

The 15-member panel's report also called on Bush administration officials to end ``rhetoric'' that some existing antitrust laws are outdated and shouldn't be enforced.

``. . .the task force members uniformly believe that the antitrust division's core mission - to preserve competitive markets - cannot be carried out at the current reduced levels of staffing and resources,'' read the 59-page report.

The report was submitted to the bar association's antitrust section and was not considered as representing the position of the section or the association. It was released in New York by Irving Scher, chairman of the bar association's antitrust section, which monitors and recommends changes in antitrust law.

Scher said copies of the report were sent to Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and the recently appointed antitrust division head James F. Rill. The ABA antitrust section was likely to approve the report and refer it to the full association, Scher said.

Rill's office in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

Under 1982 and 1984 modifications in federal antitrust laws, many constraints against mergers in a range of industries were eased as the Reagan administration endorsed allowing market forces to regulate competition.

``Although it was important to highlight the excesses of prior enforcement policies and substantive antitrust doctrines, the task force believes that further reliance on this rhetoric will undermine self-policing and voluntary compliance with the law,'' the panel stated. …