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In a move sure to spare a few million trees, federal antiturst authorities are introducing a system for the electronic submission of premerger notifications. The filings, required by the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, typically generate stunning amounts of paperwork. The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, which receive HSR filings, will begin testing the new system this month, and plan to roll it out nationally by next spring. Companies will go to a federal Web site and download a “smart form” similar to electronic tax filing programs. As they answer various questions about the proposed merger, businesses will get tailored follow-up queries. Companies will then complete the deal offline and attach the so-called 4(c) documents-memoranda, studies, and other required data. These supplemental materials may be submitted as PDF, Excel, or Word files, or as scanned documents (though the last option is the least preferred). Once the filing is complete, companies will be able to transmit it electronically over the Web or burn it onto a CD. (FTC chief information officer Stephen Warren, who is overseeing the project, promises that Web transmission will be protected by multiple layers of encryption security.) Applicants can also go the old-fashioned route and print out the entire notification, though agency officials discourage this option. After the FTC and Justice Department receive the filing, they will send a confirmation e-mail to the applicants. The new system is being introduced a little more than a year after the anthrax scare essentially shut down HSR filings for several weeks because the government stopped accepting mail. Warren says the system is modeled after an electronic filing site operated by the National Institute for Standards & Technology. “We are pretty confident,” he says. “This is not new. Other parts of the government are using this technology.”

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