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.

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