Vertical Merger

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Related to Vertical Mergers: Horizontal merger, Conglomerate Mergers

Vertical Merger

A merger between two business firms that have a buyer-seller relationship.

Business mergers can take two forms: horizontal and vertical. In a horizontal merger, one firm acquires another firm that produces and sells an identical or similar product in the same geographic area. This type of merger eliminates competition between the two firms. In a vertical merger, one firm acquires either a customer or a supplier. Because horizontal mergers pose a direct threat to competition, they have been regulated more aggressively by the federal government than vertical mergers. Nevertheless, vertical mergers may, in some circumstances, be anticompetitive and violate federal antitrust laws. Firms vertically integrate for many reasons. Some of the most common are to reduce uncertainty over the availability or quality of supplies or the demand for output, to take advantage of available economies of Integration, to protect against monopolistic practices of either suppliers or buyers with which the firm must otherwise deal, and to reduce transactions costs such as sales taxes and marketing expenses. Through a vertical merger, the acquiring firm may lower its cost of production and distribution and make more productive use of its resources.

Vertical mergers are subject to the provisions of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C.A. § 12 et seq.) governing transactions that come within the ambit of antitrust acts. Vertical integration by merger does not reduce the total number of economic entities operating at one level of the market, but it may change patterns of industry behavior. Suppliers may lose a market for their goods, retail outlets may be deprived of supplies, and competitors may find that both supplies and outlets are blocked. Vertical mergers may also be anticompetitive because their entrenched market power may discourage new businesses from entering the market.

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided only three vertical merger cases under section 7 of the Clayton Act since 1950. In the first case, United States v. E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 353 U.S. 586, 77 S. Ct. 872, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1057 (1957), the Court upset the general assumption that section 7 did not apply to vertical mergers. After finding that du Pont's acquisition of 23 percent of General Motors (GM) stock foreclosed sales to GM by other suppliers of automotive paints and fabric, the Court held that the vertical merger had an illegal anticompetitive effect.

The next vertical merger case to come before the Court, Brown Shoe Co. v. United States, 370 U.S. 294, 82 S. Ct. 1502, 8 L. Ed. 2d 510 (1962), remains the leading decision in this area of Antitrust Law. The Court stated that the "primary vice of a vertical merger" is the foreclosure of competitors, which acts as a "clog on competition" and "deprive[s] … rivals of a fair opportunity to compete." The Court noted that market share would be an important, but seldom decisive consideration. The Court identified other "economic and historical factors" that would determine the legality of the merger. The first and "most important such factor" was the nature and purpose of the arrangement. Another was the trend toward concentration in the industry.

In the only other vertical merger case decided by the Supreme Court, Ford Motor Co. v. United States, 405 U.S. 562, 92 S. Ct. 1142, 31 L. Ed. 2d 492 (1972), the Court condemned Ford's attempted acquisition of Autolite, a spark plug manufacturer, and emphasized the heightened barriers that the merger would pose to other companies that attempted to enter the market. The Court also emphasized that Ford's argument that the acquisition had made Autolite a more effective competitor was irrelevant.


Mergers and Acquisitions; Monopoly; Restraint of Trade; Unfair Competition.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(81) See, for example, David Reiffen & Michael Vita, Is There New Thinking on Vertical Mergers?, 63 ANTITRUST L.J.
Riordan, Evaluating Vertical Mergers: A Post-Chicago Approach, 63 ANTITRUST L.J.
Third, vertical merger might undermine the regulatory (as well as competitive) advantages of a policy of vertical separation--see section IV.D.
(12) Riordan & Salop, Evaluating Vertical Mergers: A Post-Chicago Approach, 63 ANTITRUST L.
Although the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department (DOJ) pursued few vertical cases during the 1980s, both have recently accepted settlements in vertical merger cases.(1) These actions suggest that the antitrust agencies may scrutinize physician-hospital integration for possible vertical effects.
The dilemma, as Professor Areeda saw it, is that "[d]ue to the pervasiveness of various degrees of vertical integration, it cannot generally be prevented, even in the case of monopolists, without losing the various efficiencies it makes possible." Nor, he despaired, "can we hope to measure the magnitude of efficiencies involved in each instance of vertical integration."(73) Similarly, Professor Turner feared "that severe limitations on vertical mergers will substantially interfere with the achievement of latent efficiencies...."(74)
New York, NY, August 16, 2019 --( The Knowledge Group/The Knowledge Congress Live Webcast Series, the leading producer of regulatory focused webcasts, announced today that it has scheduled a live webcast entitled: Vertical Merger Enforcement: How to Effectively Navigate Through the Uncharted Waters of Complexities.
Undeterred, AAPS will continue to promote and provide tools to have a successful third-party-free practice and to fight the perils of vertical mergers at each opportunity.
The appeals court affirmed the $81 billion vertical merger won't harm consumers or competition in the booming pay-TV market
Further, there are also antitrust issues as vertical mergers face more regulatory scrutiny, the report noted.
The same thing is a little less true for vertical practices, including vertical mergers. Historically, the Chicago school believed they should be virtually per se legal, with a narrow exception for vertical practices that facilitate horizontal collusion.
Chicago: Fitch Ratings said the US District Court's approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner will serve as a litmus test for corporate M&A and could open the floodgates for additional vertical mergers.