Check out my BusinessWeek story, based on the first extensive interview with the Obama Administration’s new head of antitrust enforcement, Christine A. Varney. Techies haven’t quite come to grips with the fact that there are new sheriffs in town. Big changes are coming with the way this and other industries are regulated, as you can see with the reaction to the Microsoft-Yahoo search deal and the FCC action on Apple. Read on.
The Antitrust Cop and the Tech Industry
Christine Varney aims to reinvigorate antitrust policy without stifling U.S. business, but Google and Intel could be among her targets
By Spencer E. Ante
Christine A. Varney, the nation’s top antitrust cop, is trying to pull off a delicate balancing act. She wants to reinvigorate antitrust policy after the laissez-faire years of the Bush Administration. Yet she also wants to avoid interfering with companies that compete vigorously but fairly. “This job is making sure the competitive marketplace is free from obstacles and barriers,” says Varney, whose official title is Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Dept. “We are thinking a lot about where bottlenecks might be in certain industries. If we can break through them it would be good for consumers.”
In her first extensive interview since taking office in April, Varney described an antitrust philosophy that is clearly more aggressive than in the recent past yet also less ideological than many businesspeople may expect. Varney says her goal is to bring antitrust law back to its historical center, not simply to go after giants because of their size. “We are not anti-big in any way, shape, or form,” says Varney, a former Federal Trade Commissioner who spent the past 12 years representing corporations as a partner at the Washington law firm Hogan & Hartson. “But with enormous success comes responsibility.”
Varney says the Justice Dept. will be taking a look at a range of industries including transportation and technology. Antitrust officials have also opened inquiries in agriculture, financial services, telecom, and health care, say sources familiar with the Justice Dept.’s activities.