Trump likely won't thwart old foe Jeff Bezos' latest move

Key Points
  • The Trump administration likely will not try to block Amazon's deal to buy Whole Foods, according to law experts.
  • The $13.7 billion move likely does not decrease competition enough to prompt antitrust issues, they said.
What Amazon/Whole Foods deal says about Bezos

Despite President Donald Trump's campaign trail animosity toward Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, his administration likely will not seek an antitrust case to block Amazon's deal to buy Whole Foods, according to two antitrust law experts.

But at least one Democratic congressman has cried foul on proposed transaction.

After the $13.7 billion deal was announced Friday, some critics said it would give Amazon an outsize presence in too many pockets of the U.S. economy. But experts said the deal does not seem to run afoul of conventional antitrust concerns: that it eliminates competition or gives Whole Foods too much of a hold on the grocery space.

"There has to be some kind of injury to competition ... I don't really see an antitrust concern," said Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania law school and an antitrust scholar.

Any antitrust concerns raised by the deal are "not likely" to pose significant enough issues that the government would "conclude an increase in market power and higher prices to the consumer," the "usual question" for antitrust, said Eleanor Fox, a professor at the New York University School of Law and an antitrust expert.

Never underestimate the power of Jeff Bezos: Analyst

The move may actually increase competition and lead to lower prices for consumers.

But Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., argued Monday that the deal would create "downward pressure on wages for employees" and "drive small businesses out." He told CNBC that the low prices created by the acquisition could prove anti-competitive because smaller competitors could not keep up with the price slashing.

Still, Hovenkamp and Fox note that Trump's nominee for assistant attorney general for antitrust, Makan Delrahim, has a track record suggesting he would not challenge the Amazon-Whole Foods deal. Delrahim, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division, would be in charge of reviewing corporate mergers for the Trump administration.

Fox said that Delrahim's track record shows he could be "very respectful of firms' freedom to do what they choose," believing that it will boost competition and innovation.

Amazon, Whole Foods and the Justice Department declined to comment on this article.

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