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Chamber Accuses FTC of Quashing Exit Opportunities

Published: January 25th, 2022
The business group’s CEO warned that the antitrust enforcer's aggressive stance against M&A would harm small-to-medium-sized businesses hoping to be acquired.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce escalated its criticism of the Federal Trade Commission with accusations that the antitrust enforcer is stifling exit opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses.

In her inaugural State of American Business address since taking the reins in March as the chamber’s first female CEO, Suzanne Clark said the FTC’s “aggressive stance against mergers and acquisitions” was to blame.

Smaller companies that seek to be acquired “fear they’ll have worked for years to build something and have no exit strategy if they choose to sell,” she said, according to the text of her Tuesday, Jan. 11, remarks.

While the FTC plays a critical role in preventing anticompetitive behavior that harms consumers, “it can’t do that job if instead it is trying enlarge its powers, too,” she said, referencing Chairwoman Lina Khan, who’s vowed to halt more anticompetitive transactions than previous administrations.

The sharp words were the latest round in the chamber’s multi-pronged effort to discredit the FTC with accusations of an anti-business bias.

Acknowledging that some Republicans also support tougher antitrust enforcement, Clark asserted that “modern-day ‘trustbusters’ on Capitol Hill —from both parties — think all big is bad,” even though large and small businesses benefit from each other.

The CEO took a shot at President Joe Biden’s July executive order that aims to promote competition across an array of industries, including the internet, agriculture, banking and healthcare.

“The Biden administration introduced a sweeping executive order based on the false premise that our entire economy is overconcentrated and stagnant,” Clark griped.

“Despite the clear innovation, the resilience, and the dynamism of our economy, we have leaders who think the government needs to step in and impose a heavy hand,” she said.

The chamber launched a December ad campaign intended to raise awareness about FTC actions the organization views as hostile to the American economy. During her speech, she urged business advocates to form a new coalition to protect their interests in Washington. “We have to be as loud as the extremists,” she said.

In a bid to undermine the chamber, Public Citizen issued a Monday, Jan. 10, report that accused the world’s largest business organization of lobbying against stricter enforcement “because its ranks are filled with corporate wrongdoers.”

The report alleged that at least 111 member companies have violated federal and state law nearly 16,000 times since 2000, incurring penalties of more than $154 billion. Nineteen chamber members have plead guilty to business-related crimes, and four more are under criminal investigation, according to the advocacy group.

Previously the chamber’s chief operating officer, Clark is currently a member of the board at AGCO Corp. (AGCO) and TransUnion LLC (TRU).

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