Just as the supply chain is made up of many players and contributors, the bottlenecks that currently exist are a product of many factors. In an attempt to identify the root causes of the congestion, the Federal Trade Commission is getting involved.

As the agency announced in a prepared statement, the FTC has formally called upon several household-name retailers and suppliers to turn over all their internal documents and data that relate to supply chain management. These companies include Walmart — the world's largest employer — Proctor & Gamble, Amazon and Associated Wholesale Grocers Incorporated, among others. In a 4-0 vote, the commission that comprises the FTC was unanimous in its decision to issue the order to the aforementioned companies. 

Lina Khan, chairperson for the FTC, noted the inquiry is designed to get a better understanding of where the supply chain bottlenecks exist and how to best resolve them.

"The FTC has a long history of pursuing market studies to deepen our understanding of economic conditions and business conduct, and we should continue to make nimble and timely use of these information-gathering tools and authorities," Khan said.

The order is designed to inform a study that the FTC is currently putting together related to the ongoing supply chain challenges affecting the global economy. Khan noted that the 6(b) study — the title deriving from Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which authorizes the agency to conduct such investigations — is meant to "shed light on market conditions and business practices" that may have exacerbated the disruptions or contributed to added instability.

The FTC has requested documents from nine retailers, suppliers and wholesalers.The FTC has requested documents from nine retailers, suppliers and wholesalers.

Other ways government is getting involved
The federal government has taken a number of steps toward improving the flow of the supply chain. This includes ordering the nation's two largest shipping ports — located in Long Beach and Los Angeles — to remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, in mid-November, President Joe Biden told reporters that he met privately with several CEOs of organizations like Target, Walmart, FedEx and UPS to see what strategies they were working on. Biden noted at the time that the CEOs provided assurances their shelves would be sufficiently stocked for shoppers during the holidays. 

The Federal Maritime Commission is also taking a lead role in the supply chain relief effort. According to a statement the FMC issued on Nov. 15, the focus of the effort will be on identifying what data constraints are contributing to supply chain inefficiencies pertaining to cargo shipped by sea. FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei noted in the release that information sharing and transparency should help to shed more light on this ongoing problem and thanked FMC Commissioner Carl Bentzel for launching the inquiry.

"I am confident his work will lead to beneficial and implementable recommendations," Maffei said. The phased effort is slated to begin in December when Bentzel will hold the first meeting.

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