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The nation’s antitrust agencies are moving to reduce the amount of paperwork merging companies must file to comply with the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act. The proposed rule change, announced by the Federal Trade Commission, would permit companies to file Internet links to required documents — such as annual reports or annual audit reports — rather than filing hard copies with the agencies. Companies filing HSR notifications will continue to be required to file duplicate merger notifications with both the FTC and its sister agency, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. Initial merger filings often run 200 pages or more. The proposal, which invites comments through Oct. 14, would be the first step toward reducing the burden on merging firms, a priority FTC chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras announced last November. HSR compliance, including responding to second requests for additional information, has become a thorny issue for antitrust lawyers. Compliance with second requests has become particularly problematic because of the proliferation of e-mail. When regulators launch an extended merger review, they typically ask for archived internal electronic communication relevant to the deal. The electronic searches have resulted in more extensive — and expensive — filings. The average cost of complying with a second request has reached more than $5 million, according to Majoras. Members of the antitrust bar say that $20 million is not unheard of. Majoras has formed a task force at the FTC to work on the project, and staff at both the FTC and DOJ have discussed ways to streamline reviews. The change proposed Tuesday is not expected to significantly reduce the cost of filings, but it would cut down the amount of paperwork firms would have to submit. Copyright �2005 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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