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 FrankenControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws AP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Franken offers Dems a line of questioning for Kavanaugh's 'weirdly specific bit of bulls---' 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 KlobucharGOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia Hillicon Valley: EU hits Google with record B fine | Trump tries to clarify Russia remarks | Sinclair changing deal to win over FCC | Election security bill gets traction | Robocall firm exposed voter data Election security bill picks up new support in Senate 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."