Today, American companies are tackling some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing our country.
To help the business community better understand the landscape, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched The Competition Series, a four-week dialogue diving deeper into key issues outlined during State of American Business 2022.
The second episode, “Competition in the Marketplace: Ensuring a Level Playing Field for Business,” continues the dialogue the Chamber started this year about market competition—and why we should fight back against the government overreach threatening to hold back businesses and our economy.
“This spirit of competition brings the best ideas to life, and to customers and communities everywhere,” said U.S. Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark. “It’s the process that has allowed this country to build the most innovative, resilient, and dynamic economy in history. Despite all of this, we have leaders who think the government needs to step in and impose a heavy hand.”
A Regulator’s Perspective
The event began with a discussion about anti-trust and Merger and Acquisition (M&A) regulations with Noah Phillips, Commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
He said that anti-trust regulations should be focused on the welfare of consumers, especially in the current inflationary environment.
“The important thing for Congress to focus on isn’t whether a law negatively impacts companies that Congress doesn’t like,” Phillips said. “But focus on what is best for competition and what is best for consumers. We want laws that make consumers’ lives better, that make Americans’ lives better.”
Phillips added that he believes that most mergers are not problematic.
“Most mergers are likely either to be pro-competitive or, at least, competitively neutral,” Phillips said. “What I don’t think we want are policies they either have the practical impact, or the intent, of condemning most mergers or throwing sand in the gears of M&A activity generally.”
The Importance of M&A to a Growing Economy
American companies’ ability to link up with or buy other companies—is fundamental to the health and dynamism of the American market system. Though often misunderstood, M&A activity can enhance companies’ competitiveness, help them compete globally, and enhance efficiencies throughout the economy.
“M&A allow companies to increase efficiency, productivity, and be able to access new markets,” said Eric Cantor, former U.S. Representative and Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Moelis & Company. “Markets that the U.S. has traditionally competed in are being inundated by China and other adversarial players. It’s in the interest not just of our clients, but the U.S., that American-based multinationals be able to compete and win.”
Cantor said that some of the new rulings by the FTC had given executives pause due to a lack of clarity from policymakers.
“The anti-trust forecast is somewhat in question now given where the Biden administration is going at the FTC and the DOJ,” Cantor said. “Certainly, C-Suites and Boards are taking a step back and saying, ‘Wait a minute! Do we know we can make it through in terms of the review and anti-trust scrutiny that comes from Washington?’”
The U.S. Chamber released a statement
late last year calling for the FTC to stop its ongoing regulatory overreach which threatens economic recovery.
How Mergers and Acquisitions Help Companies Grow
Zawadi Bryant, President of Acute Care Pediatrics, at Mednax National Medical Group, wanted her group of Houston, Texas-based pediatric clinics to grow quickly.
With a network of eight clinics, she set the goal of opening one to two clinics per year but soon realized that wouldn’t be enough to realize her vision.
Bryant needed capital to scale—and scale quickly. She considered private equity, angel investors, and other methods of raising funds. Finally, she landed on going the route of the Merger and Acquisition process.
“We ended up learning about Mednax. We started talking about our mutual vision—putting patient quality first. They had a wonderful infrastructure already, a national brand, and the capital to allow us to grow,” Bryant said. “It just started to make sense.”
Now, her goal is to add more than 100 clinics across the country in the next three years.
Market Concentration and the U.S. Economy
Robert Kulick, Associate Director at National Economic Research Associates (NERA) said that despite common misconceptions to the contrary, the concentration of large companies is not rising or persistent.
“There is no general trend toward increasing industrial concentration in the U.S. economy from 2002 to 2017, in fact, it’s declining,” said Kulick. “Actually, what we see in the data is a market tendency for the most concentrated industries to become less concentrated over time.”
Kulick said that a forthcoming study from NERA will show that industrial concentration is generally associated with economic growth.
“It’s really necessary for antitrust policy to be based on a rigorous economic analysis of actual markets,” he said. “Guided by economics, antitrust is an important tool for ensuring that markets perform efficiently, promoting economic growth, and consumer welfare.”
The Competition Series will continue with “Competition for Ideas: Promoting Civil Discourse in Business and Government,” Tuesday, February 1, from 11 a.m. to noon ET. Register here.