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With help from a major lobbying push by business groups, Congress appears on track to overhaul the pre-merger notification laws by the end of the week. The changes to the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 are included in the Commerce, Justice, State appropriations bill. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said last week that he expects the controversial legislation to pass by Friday. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Bar Association’s antitrust section, and the National Association of Manufacturers have pushed for the changes, which would exempt more small deals from the reporting law and would require companies involved in large deals to pay higher filing fees. The Clinton administration has also endorsed reform. “This is one that is not controversial,” one industry lobbyist said. “It has been all worked out.” Negotiators for the House and Senate appropriations committees are still drafting final language for HSR reform, according to a staff official for the House appropriations committee. They expect to complete their work Wednesday, setting up a possible vote on the entire bill Friday. “We are getting real close to finishing this bill,” the committee staffer said. The appropriations committees are working from the Clinton administration’s HSR reform proposal, which was passed by the House as part of the CJS appropriations bill on June 26. That version would require an HSR filing for any deal valued at more than $35 million, up from the current $15 million. It would impose a $45,000 filing fee for deals valued between $35 million and $100 million, a $100,000 fee for those valued between $100 million and $200 million, and a $200,000 fee on those valued at more than $200 million. All deals now cost $45,000, regardless of size. Yet two lobbyists said they expect the appropriators to adopt a broader proposal. It would exempt all deals below $50 million from pre-merger filings. The fee would be $45,000 for deals between $50 million and $100 million, $125,000 for deals between $100 million and $500 million, and $250,000 for deals above $500 million. One government official cautioned that appropriators could tinker with the numbers if they need to raise more revenue to fund spending programs. “They are playing their cards very close to the vest,” the official said. Hart-Scott-Rodino requires companies to notify regulators before completing a merger. About 4,700 deals were reported to the antitrust agencies last year under HSR. By raising the threshold, the number of HSR filings could be cut in half. The CJS appropriations bill has been stalled by a host of controversial provisions, including one sponsored by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., which would bar the Federal Communications Commission from approving any acquisition of U.S. telecommunications assets by a state-controlled foreign business. The measure is aimed at blocking Deutsche Telekom AG’s acquisition of VoiceStream Wireless Corp. That measure is expected to be dropped before the bill comes for a vote. Copyright (c)2000 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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