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Justice Department Aims at Closer Scrutiny: How New Antitrust Policy Affects Business

WHAT does the new antitrust policy in Washington mean for business?

The answer could be: a federal lawsuit or a change in the way you do business. So far, this is how the changes could affect a business person:

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* He cannot tell a retailer or distributor how much money to charge for a product he produces. He also cannot cut off a retailer if the latter starts to carry a competing product. However, he can set service requirements.

* If he is planning a merger, he can expect a more rigorous examination of the deal. And the government will look at more than just the affect of the merger on market share. The Justice Department is now including the impact of a merger on innovation on a global basis. The antitrust division will weigh the positive effects of a merger, such as improved efficiencies, against the anticompetitive effects.

* If he is currently involved in antitrust activity, such as price fixing, he has an opportunity to change his ways with a broader amnesty program.

* If he is in the high-technology business, antitrust policy may be different since the government is keen to see the information superhighway develop. Thus, if he plans to merge with another company to provide new services toward this goal, the Justice Department is more likely to smile on the corporate marriage.

* His phone bills - both local and long distance - may be coming down as the Justice Department and Congress encourage more competition in telecommunications.

* He can expect changes in his health-care costs, probably as a result of mergers, also smiled on by Washington.

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