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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
COMPETITIVE IMPACT STATEMENT
Plaintiff United States of America ("United States"), pursuant to Section 2(b) of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act ("APPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 16(b)-(h), files this Competitive Impact Statement relating to the proposed Final Judgment submitted for entry in this civil antitrust proceeding.
NATURE AND PURPOSE OF THE PROCEEDING
Defendant Waste Management, Inc. ("Waste Management") and Defendant Allied Waste Industries, Inc. ("Allied") entered into an asset purchase agreement and a stock purchase agreement, both dated August 15, 2003, pursuant to which Waste Management would acquire from Allied, inter alia, certain small container commercial hauling assets in Broward County, Florida. The United States and the State of Florida ("Florida") filed a civil antitrust Complaint on October 14, 2003, seeking to enjoin the proposed acquisition. The Complaint alleges that the likely effect of this acquisition would be to lessen competition substantially for small container commercial hauling services in Broward County, Florida in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act. This loss of competition would result in consumers paying higher prices and receiving fewer services for the collection of small container commercial waste.
At the same time the Complaint was filed, the United States also filed a Hold Separate Stipulation and Order and proposed Final Judgment, which are designed to eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the acquisition. Under the proposed Final Judgment, which is explained more fully below, Waste Management is required within 90 days after the filing of the Complaint, or five days after notice of the entry of the Final Judgment by the Court, whichever is later, to divest, as a viable business operation, specified small container commercial hauling assets located in Broward County, Florida. Under the terms of the Hold Separate Stipulation and Order, Waste Management is required to take certain steps to ensure that the assets to be divested are fully maintained in operable condition at no less than the state they were in at the time the United States, Florida, and Defendants agreed to the divestitures outlined below and held separate from its other assets and businesses.
The United States, Florida, and the Defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered after compliance with the APPA. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment would terminate this action, except that the Court would retain jurisdiction to construe, modify, or enforce the provisions of the proposed Final Judgment and to punish violations thereof.
DESCRIPTION OF THE EVENTS GIVING RISE TO THE ALLEGED VIOLATION
Waste Management, with 2002 revenues of approximately $11.1 billion, is the nation's largest waste collection and disposal company, operating throughout the United States. Allied, with 2002 revenues of approximately $5.5 billion, is the nation's second largest waste collection and disposal company. The proposed transaction, as initially agreed to by Defendants on August 15, 2003, would lessen competition substantially as a result of Waste Management's acquisition of Allied's small container commercial hauling assets in Broward County, Florida. This acquisition is the subject of the Complaint and proposed Final Judgment filed by the United States and Florida on October 14, 2003.
Municipal solid waste ("MSW") is solid, putrescible waste generated by households and commercial establishments. Waste collection firms, or haulers, contract to collect MSW from residential and commercial customers and transport the waste to private and public disposal facilities (e.g., transfer stations, incinerators, and landfills), which, for a fee, process and legally dispose of the waste. Small container commercial hauling is one component of MSW collection, which also includes residential and other waste collection. Waste Management and Allied compete in the collection of small container commercial waste in Broward County, Florida.
Small container commercial hauling is the collection of MSW in one to ten cubic yard containers, usually from commercial businesses such as office and apartment buildings and retail establishments (e.g., stores and restaurants) for shipment to, and disposal at, an approved disposal facility. Because of the type and volume of waste generated by commercial accounts and the frequency of service required, haulers organize small container commercial accounts into their own special routes, and generally use specialized equipment to store, collect, and transport waste from these accounts to approved disposal sites. This equipment (e.g., one- to ten-cubic-yard containers for waste storage, and front-end load vehicles commonly used for collection and transportation) is uniquely well-suited for small container commercial hauling. Providers of other types of waste collection services (e.g., residential and roll-off services) are not good substitutes for small container commercial hauling firms. In their waste collection efforts, these firms use different waste storage equipment (e.g., garbage cans or semi-stationary roll-off containers) and different vehicles (e.g., rear-load, side-load, or roll-off trucks), which, for a variety of reasons, cannot be conveniently or efficiently used to store, collect, or transport waste generated by commercial customers, and hence, are rarely used on small container commercial hauling routes. In the event of a small but significant and nontransitory increase in price for small container commercial hauling, customers would not switch to any other alternative. Thus, the Complaint alleges that the provision of small container commercial hauling constitutes a line of commerce, or relevant service, for purposes of analyzing the effects of the transaction.
The Complaint alleges that the provision of small container commercial hauling service takes place in compact, highly localized geographic markets. The geographic markets are compact and highly localized because it is expensive to ship waste long distances in either collection or disposal operations. To minimize transportation costs and maximize the scale, density, and efficiency of their waste collection operations, small container commercial hauling firms concentrate their customers and collection routes in small areas. Firms with operations concentrated in a distant area cannot easily compete against firms whose routes and customers are locally based. Distance may significantly limit a remote firm's ability to provide commercial waste hauling service as frequently or conveniently as that offered by local firms with nearby routes. Also, local small container commercial hauling firms have significant cost advantages over other firms and can profitably increase their charges to local small container commercial hauling customers without losing significant sales to firms outside the area.
Small container commercial haulers in Broward County, Florida compete for customers either in "open" competition or through competition for municipal franchises. In open competition areas, haulers compete to service individual customers. In areas where commercial hauling is controlled by the respective municipality, small container commercial haulers compete to be awarded a municipal contract, or franchise, that permits the hauler to provide service to all of the small container commercial customers in that municipality. The municipality decides whether to grant a franchise or to allow haulers to compete for customers in open competition. Local small container commercial hauling firms in Broward County can profitably increase prices to customers in the open areas of Broward County that is, those customers not covered by a municipal franchise without losing sales to a municipal franchise, or to more distant competitors.
Applying this analysis, the Complaint alleges that the open competition areas of Broward County, Florida constitute a section of the country, or relevant geographic market, for the purpose of assessing the competitive effects of a combination of Waste Management and Allied in the provision of small container commercial hauling services.
There are significant entry barriers into the provision of small container commercial hauling services. A new entrant in the small container commercial hauling business must achieve a minimum efficient scale and operating efficiencies comparable to those of existing firms in order to provide a significant competitive constraint on the prices charged by market incumbents. In order to obtain comparable operating efficiencies, a new firm must achieve route density similar to existing firms. An efficient route usually handles eighty or more customers or containers each day. Because most customers have their waste collected once or twice a week, a new entrant must have several hundred customers in close proximity to construct an efficient route. However, the common use of price discrimination and long-term contracts by existing small container commercial hauling firms can leave too few customers available to the entrant in a sufficiently confined geographic area to create an efficient route. The incumbent firm can selectively and temporarily charge an unbeatably low price to specified customers targeted by new entrants. Long-term contracts often run for three to five years and may automatically renew or contain large liquidated damage provisions for contract termination. Such terms make it more costly or difficult for a customer to switch to a new hauler and obtain lower prices for its collection service. Because of these factors, a new entrant may find it difficult to compete by offering its services at pre-entry price levels comparable to the incumbent's prices. Also, a new entrant may face an increase in the cost and time required to form an efficient route, which may limit the entrant's ability to build an efficient route and reduce the likelihood that the entrant ultimately will be successful.
The need for route density, the use of long-term contracts with restrictive terms, and the ability of existing firms to price discriminate raise significant barriers to entry by new firms, which will likely be forced to compete at lower than pre-entry price levels. Such barriers in the market for small container commercial hauling services have allowed incumbent firms to raise prices successfully.
In Broward County, Florida, Waste Management's acquisition of Allied's small container commercial hauling assets would reduce from three to two the number of significant firms that compete to provide small container commercial hauling. After the acquisition, Waste Management would control over 68 percent of total market revenues, which exceed $40million annually. There is only one other significant small container commercial hauling competitor in this market.
The Complaint alleges that a combination of Waste Management and Allied in Broward County would remove a significant competitor in small container commercial hauling. In this market the resulting increase in concentration, loss of competition, and absence of any reasonable prospect of entry or expansion by market incumbents likely will result in higher prices for small container commercial hauling.
EXPLANATION OF THE PROPOSED FINAL JUDGMENT
The divestiture requirement of the proposed Final Judgment will eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the acquisition in small container commercial hauling in Broward County, Florida by establishing a new, independent, and economically viable competitor. The proposed Final Judgment requires Waste Management, within ninety days after the filing of the Complaint, or five days after notice of the entry of the Final Judgment by the Court, whichever is later, to divest, as a viable ongoing business, small container commercial hauling assets (e.g., routes, trucks, containers, and customer lists) in Broward County, Florida. The assets must be divested in such a way as to satisfy the United States in its sole discretion, after consultation with Florida, that the operations can and will be operated by the purchaser as a viable, ongoing business that can compete effectively in the relevant market. Defendants must take all reasonable steps necessary to accomplish the divestiture quickly and shall cooperate with prospective purchasers.
In the event that Defendants do not accomplish the divestiture within the periods prescribed in the proposed Final Judgment, the Final Judgment provides that the Court will appoint a trustee selected by the United States to effect the divestiture. If a trustee is appointed, the proposed Final Judgment provides that Waste Management will pay all costs and expenses of the trustee. The trustee's commission will be structured so as to provide an incentive for the trustee based on the price obtained and the speed with which the divestiture is accomplished. After his or her appointment becomes effective, the trustee will file monthly reports with the Court, the United States, and Florida, setting forth his or her efforts to accomplish the divestiture. At the end of six months, if the divestiture has not been accomplished, the trustee, the United States, and Florida, will make recommendations to the Court, which shall enter such orders as appropriate, in order to carry out the purpose of the trust, including extending the trust or the term of the trustee's appointment.
The divestiture provisions of the proposed Final Judgment will eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the acquisition in the provision of small container commercial hauling services in Broward County, Florida. Under the proposed Final Judgment, Waste Management is required to divest customers and contracts on eleven of Allied's routes (routes 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 907, 909, 912, 914, 915, and 501, except for specific portions of these routes that did not raise significant competitive concerns, including accounts and contracts serviced in parts of unincorporated Broward County, accounts serviced through franchise agreements, and accounts and contracts serviced in the City of Margate) to a new, independent, and economically viable competitor in Broward County, Florida. In addition, Waste Management agrees that, if an Allied customer has a single contract with accounts and service locations that are on both a route to be divested and a route Waste Management will acquire, Waste Management will divest the entire contract. The divested assets produce annual revenues of over $8 million from small container commercial hauling service in the open competition areas of Broward County, which represents over 80 percent of Allied's revenues generated in the open competition areas.
REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO POTENTIAL PRIVATE LITIGANTS
Section 4 of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. § 15) provides that any person who has been injured as a result of conduct prohibited by the antitrust laws may bring suit in federal court to recover three times the damages the person has suffered, as well as costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment will neither impair nor assist the bringing of any private antitrust damage action. Under the provisions of Section 5(a) of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. § 16(a)), the proposed Final Judgment has no prima facie effect in any subsequent private lawsuit that may be brought against the Defendants.
PROCEDURES AVAILABLE FOR MODIFICATION
The United States, Florida, and Defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered by the Court after compliance with the provisions of the APPA, provided that the United States has not withdrawn its consent. The APPA conditions entry upon the Court's determination that the proposed Final Judgment is in the public interest.
The APPA provides a period of at least 60 days preceding the effective date of the proposed Final Judgment within which any person may submit to the United States written comments regarding the proposed Final Judgment. Any person who wishes to comment should do so within sixty days of the date of publication of this Competitive Impact Statement in the Federal Register. The United States will evaluate and respond to the comments. All comments will be given due consideration by the Department of Justice, which remains free to withdraw its consent to the proposed Final Judgment at any time prior to entry. The comments and the response of the United States will be filed with the Court and published in the Federal Register.
Written comments should be submitted to:
The proposed Final Judgment provides that the Court retains jurisdiction over this action, and the parties may apply to the Court for any order necessary or appropriate for the modification, interpretation, or enforcement of the Final Judgment.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE PROPOSED FINAL JUDGMENT
The United States considered, as an alternative to the proposed Final Judgment, a full trial on the merits against Defendants. The United States could have continued the litigation and sought preliminary and permanent injunctions against Waste Management's acquisition of certain assets from Allied. The United States is satisfied, however, that the divestiture of assets described in the proposed Final Judgment will preserve competition for the provision of small container commercial hauling services in the relevant market identified by the United States and Florida.
STANDARD OF REVIEW UNDER THE APPA
The APPA requires that proposed consent judgments in antitrust cases brought by the United States be subject to a sixty-day comment period, after which the Court shall determine whether entry of the proposed Final Judgment "is in the public interest." In making that determination, the Court may consider:
15 U.S.C. § 16(e). As the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held, the APPA permits a court to consider, among other things, the relationship between the remedy secured and the specific allegations set forth in the government's complaint, whether the decree is sufficiently clear, whether enforcement mechanisms are sufficient, and whether the decree may positively harm third parties. See United States v. Microsoft, 56 F.3d 1448, 1458-62 (D.C. Cir. 1995).
In conducting this inquiry, "[t]he court is nowhere compelled to go to trial or to engage in extended proceedings which might have the effect of vitiating the benefits of prompt and less costly settlement through the consent decree process." 119 Cong. Rec. 24,598 (1973) (statement of Senator Tunney).(1) Rather:
United States v. Mid-America Dairymen, Inc., 1977-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶ 61,508, at 71,980 (W.D. Mo. May 17, 1977).
Accordingly, with respect to the adequacy of the relief secured by the decree, a court may not "engage in an unrestricted evaluation of what relief would best serve the public." United States v. BNS, Inc., 858 F.2d 456, 462 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Bechtel Corp., 648 F.2d 660, 666 (9th Cir. 1981)); see also Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1460-62. Case law requires that:
Bechtel, 648 F.2d at 666 (emphasis added) (citations omitted).(2)
The proposed Final Judgment, therefore, should not be reviewed under a standard of whether it is certain to eliminate every anticompetitive effect of a particular practice or whether it mandates certainty of free competition in the future. Court approval of a final judgment requires a standard more flexible and less strict than the standard required for a finding of liability. "[A] proposed decree must be approved even if it falls short of the remedy the court would impose on its own, as long as it falls within the range of acceptability or is 'within the reaches of public interest.'" United States v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 552 F. Supp. 131, 151 (D.D.C. 1982) (citations omitted) (quoting Gillette, 406 F. Supp. at 716), aff'd sub nom. Maryland v. United States, 460 U.S. 1001 (1983); see also United States v. Alcan Aluminum Ltd., 605 F. Supp. 619, 622 (W.D. Ky. 1985) (approving the consent decree even though the court would have imposed a greater remedy).
Moreover, the Court's role under the APPA is limited to reviewing the remedy in relationship to the violations that the United States has alleged in its Complaint, and does not authorize the Court to "construct [its] own hypothetical case and then evaluate the decree against that case." Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1459. Because the "court's authority to review the decree depends entirely on the government's exercising its prosecutorial discretion by bringing a case in the first place," it follows that "the court is only authorized to review the decree itself," and not to "effectively redraft the complaint" to inquire into other matters that the United States might have but did not pursue. Id. at 1459-60.
There are no determinative materials or documents within the meaning of the APPA that were considered by the United States in formulating the proposed Final Judgment.
Dated: November 19, 2003
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been served upon Waste Management, Inc., Allied Waste Industries, Inc., and the State of Florida by placing a copy of this Competitive Impact Statement in the U.S. mail, first class and postage prepaid, directed to each of the above-named parties at the addresses given below, this 19th day of November, 2003.
Counsel for Defendant Waste Management, Inc.
Counsel for Defendant Allied Waste Industries, Inc.
Counsel for Plaintiff State of Florida
1. See United States v. Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. 713, 716 (D. Mass. 1975) (recognizing it was not the court's duty to settle; rather, the court must only answer "whether the settlement achieved [was] within the reaches of the public interest"). A "public interest" determination can be made properly on the basis of the Competitive Impact Statement and Response to Comments filed pursuant to the APPA. Although the APPA authorizes the use of additional procedures, 15 U.S.C. § 16(f), those procedures are discretionary. A court need not invoke any of them unless it believes that the comments have raised significant issues and that further proceedings would aid the court in resolving those issues. See H.R. Rep. No. 93-1463, 93rd Cong., 2d Sess. 8-9 (1974), reprinted in 1974 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6535, 6538.
2. Cf. BNS, 858 F.2d at 463 (holding that the court's "ultimate authority under the [APPA] is limited to approving or disapproving the consent decree"); Gillette, 406 F. Supp. at 716 (noting that, in this way, the court is constrained to "look at the overall picture not hypercritically, nor with a microscope, but with an artist's reducing glass"). See generally Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1461 (discussing whether "the remedies [obtained in the decree are] so inconsonant with the allegations charged as to fall outside of the 'reaches of the public interest'").