On March 24, 2020, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a joint statement on COVID-19-related antitrust enforcement highlighting ways “firms, including competitors, can engage in procompetitive collaboration that does not violate the antitrust laws” to protect public health and safety. The DOJ and FTC emphasized their commitment to facilitating antitrust compliance for businesses that are responding to the national emergency. In furtherance of this position, the agencies gave examples of collaborative activities designed to improve health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic that are unlikely to run afoul of the antitrust laws, absent exceptions. These include:
- Collaboration on research and development as “efficiency-enhancing integration of economic activity” which is typically procompetitive.
- Sharing technical know-how – rather than company specific data about prices, wages, outputs, or costs – as necessary to achieve procompetitive benefits of collaboration.
- The “development of suggested practice parameters – standards for patient management developed to assist providers in clinical decisionmaking” by providers will not be challenged except in extraordinary circumstances.
- Joint purchasing arrangements among health care providers “designed to increase the efficiency of procurement and reduce transaction costs.”
- “[P]rivate lobbying addressed to the use of federal emergency authority, including private industry meetings with the federal government to discuss strategies on responding to COVID-19, insofar as those activities comprise mere solicitation of governmental action with respect to the passage and enforcement of laws.”