The Anti-Trust Laws

Congress passed the first anti-trust law, the Sherman Act, in 1890 as a "comprehensive charter of economic liberty aimed at preserving free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade." In 1914, Congress passed two additional antitrust laws: the Federal Trade Commission Act, which created the FTC, and the Clayton Act. With some revisions, these are the 3 core federal antitrust laws still in effect today.

The Sherman Act outlaws "every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade," and any "monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize."

The Federal Trade Commission Act bans "unfair methods of competition" and "unfair or deceptive acts or practices."

The Clayton Act addresses specific practices that the Sherman Act does not clearly prohibit, such as mergers and interlocking directorates (that is, the same person making business decisions for competing companies). Section 7 of the Clayton Act prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect "may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly."

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977

Since 1977, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA have applied to all U.S. persons and certain foreign issuers of securities. With the enactment of certain amendments in 1998, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA now also apply to foreign firms and persons who cause, directly or through agents, an act in furtherance of such a corrupt payment to take place within the territory of the United States.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has primary responsibility for enforcing the anti-bribery provisions of the Act while the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) generally enforces the accounting (books and records and internal controls) provisions.

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