The federal government spends more than $140 million a year on the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  What do we taxpayers get for our money?  Aggressive prosecution of cartels that gouge American consumers?  Opposition to mergers that consolidate national and international economic power?  Inquiry into the billions that private equity firms reap from seducing management of public companies?

Put Blawgletter down as doubtful.  As far as we can tell, the Division under Thomas O. Barnett (no relation) spares little effort in pursuing small-time cases, ones that state antitrust authorities could have brought, while hoping to rein in those same authorities (as when Mr. Barnett asked them to back off from hassling Microsoft for its new Vista operating system). 

One might infer as much from the press release that the Division posted today.  It concerns a bank merger affecting local markets in Champaign, Urbana, and Mahomet in Illinois.


Barry Barnett