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Trump's pick to lead antitrust division raises concerns over vertical mergers

Trump's pick to lead antitrust division raises concerns over vertical mergers
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President Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Justice’s antitrust division said that vertical mergers, such as the proposed AT&T-Time Warner deal, can “raise competitive concerns.”

“I think every transaction should be reviewed based on its particular facts and circumstances,” Makan Delrahim wrote in response to questions submitted by a group of Democratic senators. 

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“Thus, just because a transaction or particular types of transactions have been approved in the past does not mean that they could not raise competitive concerns in the future.”

The comment was made in response to a question submitted to the record by Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenOvernight Finance: Senators near two-year budget deal | Trump would 'love to see a shutdown' over immigration | Dow closes nearly 600 points higher after volatile day | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 | Pawlenty leaving Wall Street group Pawlenty departing Wall Street group as campaign rumors swirl Bachmann won't run for Franken's Senate seat because she did not hear a 'call from God' MORE (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, about how Delrahim sees vertical mergers, which are deals between companies in different sectors of an industry.

In a response to a similar question posed by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Regulation: EPA sued over water rule delay | House passes bill to ease ObamaCare calorie rule | Regulators talk bitcoin | Patient groups oppose FDA 'right to try' bill Overnight Finance: Senators near two-year budget deal | Trump would 'love to see a shutdown' over immigration | Dow closes nearly 600 points higher after volatile day | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 | Pawlenty leaving Wall Street group Dem senator presses FTC to ramp up Equifax hack probe MORE (D-Minn.), Delrahim said that the vertical deals most deserving of scrutiny are ”those where there is risk that either upstream or downstream competition may be foreclosed by the transaction,” though he declined to comment on specific mergers.

Axios first reported on Delrahim’s responses.

Franken also pressed Delrahim, a deputy White House counsel, on what role the antitrust division should play in ensuring an open internet in the absence of net neutrality rules.

“To the extent that firms with market power take anticompetitive exclusionary actions to limit competition on the internet, the Antitrust Division can and should use the antitrust laws to protect that competition,” Delrahim answered. “It would not be appropriate to utilize the antitrust laws to reach objectives beyond protecting competition."