The outgoing head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division has a message for companies that violate antitrust laws: We’ll see you in court.
“The bottom line is the antitrust division isn’t afraid to litigate, and when it does, it wins,” acting Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Sharia Pozen said at a Brookings Institution event on Monday.
Since President Obama took office in 2009, the Department of Justice has challenged 57 mergers, she said. And under Pozen, who has been acting head of the division since August, DOJ lawyers have gone to court to block AT&T’s blockbuster takeover of T-Mobile; and to punish Apple and several publishing companies accused of conspiring to fix e-book prices.
The suit against Apple and the publishers, filed on April 11th, has elicited criticism from lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who sees the case as helping Amazon; and some in the business community who have called the lawsuit a “mugging.”
But Pozen pushed back at the criticism, saying the alleged conspiracy led to higher prices for consumers.
“At its heart, this case is about protecting competition, not competitors,” she said, adding that companies should understand that the DOJ is a “cop on the beat.”
The Justice Department was widely seen as a David taking on Goliath when it challenged AT&T’s $39 billion bid to acquire rival T-Mobile last year. But after additional pressure from the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T dropped the deal.
Despite the high-profile legal frays, Pozen said Justice Department officials prefer to work things out, and she pointed to the Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal, which was approved with conditions.
Pozen, who replaced Christine Varney last year, is resigning from the DOJ at the end of this month to return to private law practice. Obama has nominated former director of the Federal Trade Commission's Competition Bureau William Baer to head the Antitrust Division.