Closer Controls and Better Data Could Improve Antitrust Enforcement

GGD-80-16: Published: Feb 29, 1980. Publicly Released: Feb 29, 1980.

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Two agencies share responsibility for enforcing Federal antitrust laws: the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, through civil and criminal legal proceedings; and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), through adjudication before Administrative Law Judges. Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed their performance in enforcing Federal antitrust laws. Data was compiled on 294 antitrust investigations over a 3-year period.

Both the Antitrust Division and FTC organized enforcement activities by program areas but could keep better track of how their staffs use their time. In the past, neither agency emphasized using evaluations to provide management information on the agency's effectiveness in restoring and maintaining competition. Both, however, were beginning to develop this capability. The review showed that both agencies monitored investigations on an informal basis and that some investigations might have been conducted more efficiently with closer management control. During the review, both agencies took steps to strengthen oversight, and FTC adopted new requirements to improve investigational planning. Although both agencies called on economists to assist in antitrust enforcement, economic assistance often was not requested on a timely basis. FTC employed research analysts to assist its attorneys but had no established ratio of attorneys to analysts.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Antitrust Division should (1) accumulate data on the use of resources by enforcement programs; (2) evaluate the effectiveness of enforcement efforts in promoting competition; (3) strengthen management control over the progress of antitrust investigations to facilitate their orderly development and progress; and (4) provide guidelines on the role and use of economists and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. FTC should (1) accumulate information on the extent to which resources are used to pursue each type of violation of the antitrust laws; and (2) specify the type of investigations which should receive economic assistance, and require the early involvement of economists in investigations. The Antitrust Division and FTC together should (1) insure that evaluation plans and strategies be shared to avoid duplication and to increase the base of knowledge each agency has of the other; (2) establish a joint task force to plan a unified and comprehensive approach to evaluating antitrust enforcement; and (3) undertake joint evaluation efforts.

    Agency Affected:


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