No Trust in Antitrust

Sherman Act

This afternoon, I want to lift up an op-ed by Bill Baer headlined Think the DOJ’s Antitrut Division is immune from political meddling? Think again. In a world that seems to be headed rapidly to hell in a handbasket, political meddling with the Antitrust Division may seem like small beer. And it probably is, all things considered, in today’s world. The last time it happened, though, back in the Nixon Administration, it was a full-scale three-alarm fire.

I wish to draw attention to the author, in order to put his remarks in their proper context. Bill Baer is, among many other things, a senior partner at Arnold & Porter, a consummate antitrust lawyer, and an insider’s insider. I have known him since the 1980’s, when we sometimes joined forces (as counsel for the buyer and seller, respectively) to get anticompetitive mergers and acquisitions through the government review process. During the last years of the Reagan Administration, our task was much akin to taking candy from a baby.

Later, as George Bush the Elder restored sanity to antitrust enforcement, the game once again reverted to what it should have been.

I commend Bill for speaking out. The tale he has to tell is worth a listen. Because willful pursuit of clearly meritless claims, undertaken to punish companies that don’t toe the line politically, is something that should not be tolerated.