Judge Won’t Block Whole Foods – Wild Oats Merger

Michael Giberson

An update: Yesterday a federal judge refused the FTC’s request to temporarily block the Whole Foods-Wild Oats merger. The Associated Press reported that the judge’s reasoning “was detailed in a 93-page court document that was sealed because it contains corporate secrets.” Pretty obviously, as an attorney is quoted in the AP story as saying, “It appears that the court likely placed value on the evidence submitted by Whole Foods showing that the company faces meaningful competition from conventional supermarkets.” FTC can appeal the ruling.

Hat tip to Volokh Conspirator Peter Bernstein. A commenter there speculates: “Seriously, what was the FTC thinking? Are there just no antitrust violations going on and they didn’t want to fire anyone?”

The AP article observes, “The FTC last won an antitrust case in court in 2002, when it succeeded in blocking Libbey Inc. from buying restaurant glassware maker Anchor Hocking Corp. from Newell Rubbermaid Inc.”

For more discussion, see a Geoff Manne posting at Truth on the Market (also cited at Volokh). Truth on the Market also has a post up in response to the ruling with links to their related posts.