Justice Departent Swoops in to Prevent Parking Monopoly in Dallas (and Elsewhere)
If you've ever wondered who controls any given parking lot downtown, the answer is probably either Central Parking Corporation or Standard Parking Corporation. Central owns more than a dozen locations there, according to its website. Standard owns several more, though its website doesn't say exactly how many. The same thing is true in downtown New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, and pretty much every other major city in the country. All told, the companies dominate the off-street parking industry, operating 4,400 parking facilities and raking in $1.5 billion per year.
And earlier this year, Standard, based in Chicago, announced that it would acquire its largest competitor. Standard CEO James Willhelm touted the move as a way to improve efficiency and save costs by eliminating redundancy.
The U.S. Department of Justice viewed the proposed merger somewhat differently. The companies are head-to-head competitors, the feds say, whose attempts to gain a competitive advantage over the other in pricing, hours of operation, security, etc. has benefited customers. A merger would do the opposite.
"The proposed merger threatens to end that competition and would provide Standard with the ability to exercise market power by raising prices or reducing the quality of services offered for off-street parking," the DOJ announced yesterday.
Also yesterday, the department's antitrust division filed a civil lawsuit in federal court objecting to certain aspects of the deal. Specifically, the DOJ was concerned that the merger would leave Standard with a monopoly on parking operations in the central business districts of 29 cities, Dallas included.
Everything's copacetic, though. The DOJ simultaneously announced that it had reached a settlement with Standard in which the company will divest itself of parking facilities in those cities that bring in $85 million. So, everyone wins. The government's anti-trust concerns were addressed, Standard gets to rake in even more money, and drivers will be gouged just a little bit less when they park.