#FTC

25 07, 2023

FedFin Analysis: U.S. Merger Policy

2023-07-25T17:18:51-04:00July 25th, 2023|The Vault|

Building on a request for comment, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have now proposed specific revisions to U.S. merger policy that significantly redirect the manner in which M&A transactions – even if only for minority positions – will be considered.  Although this is only a draft statement, it tracks much of what President Biden laid out in his 2021 executive order on U.S. competition policy and actions since then by the DOJ and the FTC.  As a result, the guidelines are more of a roadmap providing clarity than a new approach unless the final version differs substantively in any major way or future Administrations adopt a different policy.  Near-term U.S. merger policy makes it considerably more difficult to finalize horizontal, vertical, and even minority holdings, a challenge likely to be particularly acute in U.S. financial services where government agencies believe there is …

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10 07, 2023

Karen Petrou: The Bankruptcy of Bank-Merger Policy

2023-07-10T14:18:07-04:00July 10th, 2023|The Vault|

On Wednesday, a Senate Banking subcommittee will consider bank-merger policy, surely providing a platform for its chair, Sen. Warren’s pronounced views opposing all but the smallest bank mergers and maybe not even those.  Many other senators are not as adamant, but even pro-business Republicans – see J.D. Vance – think bank mergers beyond the itty-bitty are at best problematic.  The politics of this debate is obvious; the substance not so much.  As with many other questions, bank-merger policy is best set with a keen understanding of recent, objective research and what it actually says about concentration as it occurs outside the gaze of those fearful only of still bigger big banks.

That there is undue market power in a financialized economy that brings a raft of woes is all too clear.  I thus hoped that Assistant Attorney General Kanter’s remarks last month would be a meaningful update of the Department of Justice’s anachronistic 1995 policy.  It helped, but only a bit because Mr. Kanter focused principally on enforcement, leaving “broader” questions solely to the banking agencies.

They in turn have long promised a transparent merger policy, but it’s still deal-by-deal, case-by-case, crisis-by-crisis.  More than a few mid-sized banks will wither away as deliberations continue because the sheer uncertainty and delays of most bank mergers undermine their economic value, particularly at a time of high interest rates, slow or no growth, tough new rules, and withering competition.

Recent antitrust research does not substantiate easy, blanket assertions about the benefits or …

6 04, 2023

FedFin: Extra Equitable?

2023-04-06T16:36:29-04:00April 6th, 2023|The Vault|

FHFA, Fannie, and Freddie yesterday updated the sometimes-controversial equitable-finance plans FHFA approved last year.  Notably, Fannie’s new plan no longer focuses exclusively on Black households, a feature that garnered vitriolic Wall Street Journal criticism and negative Republican reactions.  Freddie’s plan delays and may even back away from efforts to set MI and title insurance pricing.

The full report is available to subscription clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here.…

21 12, 2022

FedFin on: Nonbank Enforcement-Order Registry

2022-12-21T16:54:37-05:00December 21st, 2022|The Vault|

The CFPB is proposing to create a public registry of certain enforcement actions that would initially cover nonbanks (including BHCs) with a goal of drawing public and enforcement-agency attention to what the Bureau’s director calls “serial offenders.” …

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

17 08, 2022

FedFin on: Data-Safeguard Legal/Reputational Risk

2023-01-04T11:55:58-05:00August 17th, 2022|The Vault|

Using another of its tools to set policy without prior public comment, the CFPB has released a circular stating that inadequate consumer-data safeguards may constitute a breach of the unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices (UDAAP) protection standards subject to Bureau enforcement action.   This is the case even if no consumers have been harmed, if only one consumer is adversely affected, …

The full report is available to retainer clients. To find out how you can sign up for the service, click here and here.…

6 12, 2021

Karen Petrou: Why Pro-Competition Consumer Finance May Not be Pro-Consumer Consumer Finance

2023-05-23T13:26:47-04:00December 6th, 2021|The Vault|

Under Rohit Chopra, consumer protection has taken an important, widely-overlooked turn with potent consequences for all retail financial-product providers.  Media coverage of the CFPB’s bigtech order, mortgage-discrimination action, and last week’s anti-overdraft campaign highlighted traditional issues such as fair lending and predatory pricing. These are indeed in the CFPB’s sights, but so also is a much bigger target: the extent to which a few large companies are said to be able to set consumer interest rates and otherwise dictate the shape of U.S. retail finance. This might cut big banks down to the puny size their critics seek, but it’s more likely to accelerate the transformation of retail finance into a wild west of unregulated providers outside the reach of safety-and-soundness standards and, in many cases, even of the CFPB. If this pro-competition campaign is mis-calibrated, the CFPB will put consumers at still greater risk.

Mr. Chopra’s interest in market competition doubtless derives from his stint as a lone, strong voice at the Federal Trade Commission who lost pretty much every battle he waged against giant corporate combos.  It surely stems also from President Biden’s executive order demanding that federal agencies take express pro-competitive action. And, indeed, there’s a lot to do in sectors such as tech-platform companies that already seem to have skipped over just being monopolies to become potent oligopolies with powerful impact over each aspect of everyday life, not to mention pricing and economic inequality.

However, neither traditional nor neo-Brandeisian antitrust theory applies well …

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