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Spotlight on Response to COVID-19

Antitrust Division Spring Update 2021

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Division issued (jointly with the FTC) a statement that provides guidance for business collaboration efforts and outlines an expedited business review letter process for proposed conduct concerning COVID-19-related public health and safety efforts. The Agencies made clear that, during this national emergency, some collaborations between individuals or businesses could be procompetitive and necessary to respond to the exigencies of the pandemic. Under the expedited business review process, the Agencies aim to respond to and resolve all COVID-19-related requests related to pandemic health and safety within seven calendar days.

Since March 2020, the Division has issued six expedited business review letters to support pandemic health and safety. These letters addressed proposed competitor collaborations critical to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in most cases undertaken in collaboration with federal organizing officials. Covered topics included the development of common quality standards for collecting COVID-19 convalescent plasma, the production of monoclonal antibody therapies, a distribution program for personal protective equipment (PPE), an information exchange for depopulating unmarketable hogs, and a medication distribution program.

Staff from across the Division worked with urgency and care to bring each of these reviews to a conclusion within the seven-calendar-day target, while still conducting robust analyses and ensuring appropriate competition safeguards were applied to these competitor collaborations.

The Division issued a second joint statement with the FTC in April 2020 reaffirming its commitment to preserving competition in labor markets and curbing anticompetitive conduct by those who take advantage of the pandemic to enter unlawful wage-fixing or no-poach agreements.  In terms of internal procedural changes for public health and safety, the Division now permits the electronic filing of Hart-Scott-Rodino submissions and conducts all meetings by phone or video conference, absent extenuating circumstances.


Updated September 11, 2023