Late yesterday, a federal judge rejected the Federal Trade Commission’s objection to the proposed merger between premium grocery chains Whole Foods and Wild Oats. While the decision remains sealed, it does give a tentative green light for the merger to go forward. Over at the Mises Instiute’s blog, S.M. Oliva comments on the case:
Many antitrust moderates criticized the FTC’s decision to narrowly define a market for premium organic foods, but it seems to me this was a case of Commission members pandering to the hardcore base, as it were. Despite a steady diet of anti-free market activities, the Bush-era FTC lacks a signature battlefield victory a la the Clinton-era FTC’s destruction of the Staples-Office Depot merger or even the limited (and Pyrrhic) victory by the Clinton DOJ over Microsoft. The current FTC’s biggest target to date has been its five-year crusade against Rambus, a small California memory developer, and that case appears headed for a Titanic-like sinking before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sometime next year. Whole Foods likely provided the Republican-led FTC its last chance to publicly humiliate a well-known company while expanding the scope of existing antitrust dogma.