Rowe Testifies To Protect State Antitrust Enforcement Authority

October 26, 2005

Charles Dow, Special Assistant Attorney General, 207-626-8577

Attorney General Steve Rowe today testified before the Antitrust Modernization Commission (AMC) in Washington, D.C., in defense of the current system of overlapping state and federal antitrust law enforcement authority. Others testifying before AMC today will argue that the system results in inefficient duplication of efforts. Controversy over the dual system erupted in 2001 when several states and the U.S. Department of Justice settled an antitrust case against Microsoft, while a number of states opted to continue in litigation.

Rowe said to the AMC, "The American system of government and law is founded on respect for and acceptance of diversity and pluralism. This is reflected in our unique brand of federalism, which recognizes the concurrent sovereign jurisdiction of state and federal authorities in many areas." Rowe pointed out that states and federal authorities routinely cooperate on antitrust matters, and that the benefits of their cooperation flow not only to the respective governments, but to businesses and consumers. "Certainly, on occasion (and Microsoft is not the only instance by any means) we have viewed matters from a different perspective. In a given merger, we may care deeply about a local anticompetitive impact overlooked by federal enforcers. Or, we may decide to prosecute a local non-merger matter that was passed over by our federal counterparts. In other instances, we have frankly disagreed with federal enforcers on enforcement decisions involving national or regional matters over which we had concurrent authority, such as Microsoft, or, historically, a significant number of cases during the Reagan era."

Antitrust laws are designed to ensure competition in the free-market system. The AMC was created by Congress in 2002 to study antitrust issues and report back with recommendations to "modernize" the antitrust system. Rowe said, "Antitrust laws are critical to the free-market system in that they protect competition in the marketplace and secure the benefits of competition for all people."