Biden staff vetting Obama-era lawyer for DOJ antitrust division: report

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President Biden’s team is reportedly vetting a lawyer who served as the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) general counsel under former President Obama for a top antitrust post. 

According to Politico, which cited two sources familiar with the matter, Jonathan Sallet, who played a key role in formulating the FCC’s net neutrality rules, has been in talks for several weeks now for a top role to work on Biden’s competition policy. 

One potential position Sallet could take on is leading the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, where Sallet served as deputy assistant attorney general for litigation from 2016 to 2017.

Sallet as the DOJ’s top litigator helped block Halliburton’s $36 billion deal to purchase rival Baker Hughes, and also filed and won suits against Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana mergers.

Politico reported that Sallet could also be a possibility for permanent chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

While Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine confirmed last week that he is being considered to head the FTC, which enforces antitrust and consumer protection laws, Biden has yet to make a formal announcement on the role. 

A top appointment of Sallet, who while at the FCC led the agency’s reviews of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, would signal a move by Biden to continue efforts at aggressively enforcing communications and consumer protection laws. 

Biden has faced substantial pressure to appoint individuals as FTC chair and DOJ antitrust chief who would seek to hold online platforms accountable, including tech giants like Google and Facebook. 

Sallet while working for Colorado Attorney General Phil Wesier, led a multi-state antitrust investigation into Google’s online search engine, and also served as the primary author of a complaint filed in late December against Google on behalf of more than 30 states and territories. 

The complaint seeks to break up the tech giant and specifically accuses Google of holding an unhealthy monopoly online that forces out competitors. 

Sallet did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

The Hill has reached out to the White House for confirmation on Politico’s report. 

The report comes the same day the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it would be looking into Facebook’s acquisition of animated image search engine Giphy, arguing that the merger raised competition concerns. 

Regulators in Australia are conducting their own independent investigation into the deal, and lawmakers in the U.S. have also pushed for American antitrust regulators to look into it.

Tags antitrust Antitrust Division Consumer protection law Department of Justice Faceboook Federal Communications Commission Federal Trade Commission Google Joe Biden Politico Tech giants

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