WASHINGTON — Whole Foods Market is seeking to garner support for its opposition to a proposed Federal Trade Commission regulation that would set a five-month time frame for the evidentiary hearing from the date of the complaint in merger cases. The company, which is still battling the FTC over its acquisition last year of Wild Oats Market, said it was also seeking to extend the comment period on the proposed regulation beyond the 30 days that the FTC has set.
Attorneys for Whole Foods said on a conference call yesterday that the company was undertaking this effort on principle to protect other businesses in the future. “We believe this kind of regulation could undermine mergers that could be beneficial to consumers,” said Eileen O’Connor, an attorney with Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, Washington. She went on to say that most of the reasons the FTC cited for blocking the Wild Oats acquisition have not materialized — “Retail prices have gone down for very many items,” she said. She also said Whole Foods has invested about 200,000 hours in training Wild Oats employees and spent $32 million improving stores. In addition, 23% of Wild Oats workers have seen their pay increase, and many are now receiving health insurance coverage who were not covered at Wild Oats.
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