The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have issued new antitrust guidelines.The Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have issued revised guidelines for horizontal mergers and acquisitions that are not quite as harsh as some companies had feared.

The changes - which are the first alterations in 18 years - were first discussed nearly a year ago, in September 2009. The guidelines describe how federal agencies will evaluate the possible competitive impact of mergers and whether those mergers comply with U.S. antitrust law. Still, the new guidelines shouldn't be cause for alarm.

Any company considering a deal should not worry about a "sea-change" in how the merger or acquisition will be addressed by the FTC and the DOJ unit, said David Wales, who in 2008 and 2009 was acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition. He is now partner at the law firm Jones Day. The new guidelines are meant to address whether entry into the market is easy enough to prevent mergers from enhancing market power, and whether coordinated and unilateral effects include conduct that is unlikely to be outlined in other antitrust legislature.

Generally, the 2010 guidelines outline the proper techniques, practices and enforcement policies the two political entities will use to analyze horizontal mergers. Merger analysis should not use a single methodology in addressing antitrust concerns.

"The revised guidelines better reflect the agencies' actual practices," said Christine Varney, assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. "The guidelines provide more clarity and transparency, and will provide businesses with an even greater understanding of how we review transactions. This has been a successful process due to the commitment of the talented staff from both agencies and the excellent working relationship with the FTC led by Jon Leibowitz."
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