Trump Lags Behind Obama, Bush in Nominating Antitrust Official

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By Liz Crampton

President Donald Trump is taking longer than his two most recent predecessors to announce a nominee to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

The decision will shape the administration’s antitrust policy and determine the fate of several pending mega-deals. The DOJ’s antitrust division has several open investigations into pending mergers that began in former President Barack Obama’s administration, such as Dow Chemical Co.’s purchase of DuPont Co. and AT&T Inc.’s bid for Time Warner Inc.

The nominee will also be the administration’s key decision-maker in bringing lawsuits about companies’ anticompetitive behavior.

The delay in naming an antitrust official means policy decisions about competition could be pushed into the summer. It could be several months after Trump names his pick before that person can actually get to work because the Senate will need to confirm the nominee. But it’s not unusual for new administrations to wait on positions like this. Former President Bill Clinton didn’t name an antitrust official until April of his first term, and George W. Bush didn’t announce his nominee until May.

Longtime DOJ official Brent Snyder is now serving as acting assistant attorney general of the antitrust division, replacing Renata Hesse, who left the post in January.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in on Feb. 9, one week later than Bush’s first Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001 and six days later than Obama’s first Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on an anticipated timeline for the nominee.

Officials don’t tend to stay in the position for very long. In the last four administrations, the longest tenure of the first antitrust assistant attorney general was about three years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Liz Crampton in Washington at lcrampton@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bna.com

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