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Clayton Antitrust Act


The Clayton Antitrust Act is a U.S. law, enacted in 1914, aimed at preventing anti-competitive practices in business. It works by prohibiting certain types of conduct that were not covered by the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, such as mergers and acquisitions that significantly reduce market competitiveness. This act also provides the legal framework for nearly all federal enforcement actions against anticompetitive practices in the U.S. market.


The phonetics of the keyword “Clayton Antitrust Act” are: /ˈkleɪtən æntiːˈtrʌst ækt/

Key Takeaways

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  1. The Clayton Antitrust Act was passed in 1914 with the aim to strengthen the U.S. antitrust law provisions and further limit monopolistic practices by clarifying and supplementing the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
  2. This Act particularly prohibited specific business actions that could potentially reduce competition such as price discrimination, exclusive sales or supply contracts, tie-in agreements, and inter-corporate stock holdings in situations where the effect would ‘substantially lessen competition’ or ‘tend to create a monopoly’.
  3. Lastly, the Clayton Antitrust Act was unique because it also provided protection for workers by exempting labor unions and agricultural organizations from antitrust prosecution, thereby allowing strikes, boycotts and peaceful picketing.

“`These three points highlight the intentions, key provisions, and impact of the Clayton Antitrust Act.


The Clayton Antitrust Act, enacted in 1914, is a significant piece of legislation in business and finance due to its role in regulating and limiting monopolistic practices. It aimed to clarify and reinforce the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 by specifying particular prohibited business conduct and expanding the reach of antitrust laws to include not only monopolies, but also mergers and acquisitions that may substantially lessen competition or create a monopoly. It gave birth to crucial legal concepts like price discrimination, tying contracts, and interlocking directorates. Furthermore, the Act is unique as it exempted labor unions and agricultural organizations from antitrust prosecution, thereby acknowledging their rights to exist and protest for better working conditions. Hence, the Clayton Antitrust Act plays a key role in maintaining competitive markets and preventing undue concentrations of economic power.


The Clayton Antitrust Act is a pivotal piece of legislation in the finance and business sector, enacted in 1914 with the core purpose of strengthening and elaborating on the provisions detailed in the Sherman Antitrust Act. This comprehensive act is designed to promote and safeguard competition, while simultaneously preventing various forms of anti-competitive behavior. The fundamental intent of the Clayton Antitrust Act is to forestall monopolies and unethical business practices that can hinder competition, distort market outcomes, and ultimately harm the well-being of consumers and the overall health of the economy.In order to accomplish this aim, the Clayton Antitrust Act outlines specific unlawful practices. These include price discrimination that lessens market competition or promotes monopoly; sales conditioned on exclusive dealing contracts and tying arrangements, which could tend to create monopolies by restricting customers’ choices; and mergers and acquisitions that significantly lessen competition. Moreover, the Act also tries to protect the interest of the workers, by exempting labor unions and agricultural organizations from antitrust prosecution, acknowledging their right to strike, picket, or boycott. This crucial business law and its enforcement is instrumental in keeping the competitive integrity and dynamism of the U.S. marketplace.


1. Microsoft Case (2001): In one of the most high-profile cases invoking the Clayton Antitrust Act, the U.S. federal government accused Microsoft of creating a monopoly by bundling its Internet Explorer web browser with its Windows operating system, effectively cutting off competition from other browser companies. The court ruled that Microsoft was in violation of the Clayton Act’s regulations against anti-competitive practices and ordered the company to break into two separate entities. However, this judgment was overturned on appeal and the case was eventually settled out of court.2. AT&T and T-Mobile Merger (2011): The $39 billion merger proposed by AT&T and T-Mobile was blocked by the Department of Justice citing violations of the Clayton Antitrust Act. The merger would have placed a substantial part of the U.S. wireless market under the control of one entity, potentially reducing competition and increasing prices for consumers. After the block, both companies decided to abandon the merger.3. American Tobacco Company (1911): The American Tobacco Company was one of the earliest businesses targeted under the Clayton Antitrust Act. The Supreme Court ruled that the company was violating the act by restricting competition and engaging in monopolistic practices. As a result, the company was ordered to dissolve and separate into four distinct entities: American Tobacco Company, Liggett & Myers, P. Lorillard, and R.J. Reynolds.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Clayton Antitrust Act?

The Clayton Antitrust Act is a landmark act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1914, aiming to curb concentrations of power that could interfere with trade and hinder competition. This act mainly targets anti-competitive practices by prohibiting mergers and acquisitions that could significantly decrease market competition.

When was the Clayton Antitrust Act enacted?

The Clayton Antitrust Act was enacted on October 15, 1914.

What practices does the Clayton Antitrust Act prohibit?

The Act prohibits specific business practices such as price discrimination, exclusive deals that prevent distributors buying products from competitors, majority share purchases in competitor’s stocks, and any other practices that may substantially lessen competition or create a monopoly.

How does the Clayton Antitrust Act differ from the Sherman Act?

The main difference between the Clayton Antitrust Act and the Sherman Act is that the former is designed to stop anti-competitive practices from forming. At the same time, the Sherman Act is designed to remedy the impacts after they have occurred. In other words, the Clayton Act is preventive, while the Sherman Act is corrective.

Does the Clayton Antitrust Act apply to labor unions?

No, the Clayton Antitrust Act specifically excludes labor unions and agricultural organizations from its prohibitions. This was one of the primary reasons for the act’s creation, to mitigate the harsh treatment of labor under the Sherman Act.

Who enforces the Clayton Antitrust Act?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) are responsible for enforcing the Clayton Antitrust Act.

How does the Clayton Antitrust Act benefit consumers?

By discouraging anti-competitive behaviors and promoting fair competition, the Clayton Antitrust Act leads to better products, innovation, and fair price levels, hence directly benefiting consumers.

Can the Clayton Antitrust Act apply to international businesses?

Yes, in theory, if an international business has a significant impact on U.S. commerce, the Act can apply. However, enforcing the law against international entities can be complex and difficult.

Related Finance Terms

  • Anti-Competitive Practices
  • Exemptions and Immunities
  • Merger Regulations
  • Price Discrimination
  • Trade Commission

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