Consent Decrees: Necessary Evil, or Just Evil?

Recently, the Department of Justice held a roundtable to discuss the possibility of modifying or terminating a number of the nation's antitrust consent decrees, some of which date back over a century.  This development was predictably met with resounding approval by conservatives and libertarians alike. As a primer, consent decrees are merely the antitrust lawyer's term for a settlement agreement.  When a party is sued by one of the antitrust enforcement agencies – the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission – for engaging in conduct contrary to U.S. antitrust laws, it has two options.  The party can either pursue the matter in court, which may result in years of litigation, or choose to accept a quick settlement and agree to the terms of the compliance program required by the agency. Consent decrees have never occupied favorable position in free-market theory.  Their use has been challenged practically...(Read Full Article)

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