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4. Analytical, Economic, and Evidentiary Tools

4.1. Sources of Evidence

This subsection describes the most common sources of evidence the Agencies draw on in a merger investigation. The evidence the Agencies rely upon to evaluate whether a merger may substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly is weighed based on its probative value. In assessing the available evidence, the Agencies consider documents, testimony, available data, and analysis of those data, including credible econometric analysis and economic modeling.

Merging Parties

The Agencies often obtain substantial information from the merging parties, including documents, testimony, and data. Across all of these categories, evidence created in the normal course of business is more probative than evidence created after the company began anticipating a merger review. Similarly, the Agencies give less weight to predictions by the parties or their employees, whether in the ordinary course of business or in anticipation of litigation, offered to allay competition concerns. Where the testimony of outcome-interested merging party employees contradicts ordinary course business records, the Agencies typically give greater weight to the business records.

Evidence that the merging parties intend or expect the merger to lessen competition, such as plans to coordinate with other firms, raise prices, reduce output or capacity, reduce product quality or variety, lower wages, cut benefits, exit a market, cancel plans to enter a market without a merger, withdraw products or delay their introduction, or curtail research and development efforts after the merger, can be highly informative in evaluating the effects of a merger on competition. The Agencies give little weight, however, to the lack of such evidence or the expressed contrary intent of the merging parties.

Customers, Workers, Industry Participants, and Observers

Customers can provide a variety of information to the Agencies, ranging from information about their own purchasing behavior and choices to their views about the effects of the merger itself. The Agencies consider the relationship between customers and the merging parties in weighing customer evidence. The ongoing business relationship between a customer and a merging party may discourage the customer from providing evidence inconsistent with the interests of the merging parties.

Workers and representatives from labor organizations can provide information regarding, among other things, wages, non-wage compensation, working conditions, the individualized needs of workers in the market in question, the frictions involved in changing jobs, and the industry in which they work.

Similarly, other suppliers, indirect customers, distributors, consultants, and industry analysts can also provide information helpful to a merger inquiry. As with other interested parties, the Agencies give less weight to evidence created in anticipation of a merger investigation and more weight to evidence developed in the ordinary course of business.

Market Effects in Consummated Mergers

Evidence of observed post-merger price increases or worsened terms is given substantial weight. A consummated merger, however, may substantially lessen competition even if such effects have not yet been observed, perhaps because the merged firm may be aware of the possibility of post-merger antitrust review and is therefore moderating its conduct.

Consequently, in evaluating consummated mergers, the Agencies also consider the same types of evidence when evaluating proposed mergers.

Econometric Analysis and Economic Modeling

Econometric analysis of data and other types of economic modeling can be informative in evaluating the potential effects of a merger on competition.

The Agencies give more weight to analysis using high quality data and adhering to rigorous standards. But the Agencies also take into account that in some cases, the availability or quality of data or reliable modeling techniques might limit the availability and relevance of econometric modeling. When data is available, the Agencies recognize that the goal of economic modeling is not to create a perfect representation of reality, but rather to inform an assessment of the likely change in firm incentives resulting from a merger.

Transaction Terms

The financial terms of the transaction may also be informative regarding a merger’s impact on competition. For example, a purchase price that exceeds the acquired firm’s stand- alone market value can sometimes indicate that the acquiring firm is paying a premium because it expects to be able to benefit from reduced competition.