FTC’s Action on Illumina Vertical Merger a Sign of Sea Change in Antitrust

April 29, 2021

Regulators and jurists alike have come to accept – for decades now – that vertical mergers are not harmful to competition or consumers. Except for a quixotic Trump- era lash-out at AT&T’s acquisition of Time-Warner, regulators have accepted vertical mergers as beneficial to productive efficiency, thus good for consumers.

Another sign that antitrust under President Biden is about to undergo a sea change, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit to stop Illumina from acquiring Grail, which developed an early stage cancer detection test. The reason? The FTC alleges the acquisition could raise prices and deny access to competitors.

The ability of the FTC to foresee such competitive harms is worthy of a Delphic Oracle. At least the priestesses did their swooning and made their predictions under the influence of an intoxicating gas.