Trump Taps Bush-Era Official Who Defended Mega-Merger as Antitrust Chief
Makan Delrahim once said he didn't see maligned AT&T/Time Warner merger as "major antitrust problem"
President Donald Trump on Monday nominated his former lawyer and current White House counsel Makan Delrahim to serve as antitrust chief—potentially putting a man who once said there was nothing wrong with the AT&T/Time Warner mega-merger in charge of reviewing competition for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Delrahim previously served as deputy assistant attorney general from 2003 to 2005 under then-President George W. Bush.
If confirmed by the Senate this time around, the corporate lawyer and lobbyist will serve as assistant attorney general for the DOJ agency that approves or rejects mergers and acquisitions and investigates companies for potential anti-competition threats. Delrahim's prospective boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is generally seen as merger-friendly.
Delrahim said in an interview with a Canadian television program last year that he didn't see a problem with the proposed consolidation of AT&T and Time Warner, which is still on track for review by the DOJ.
"The sheer size of it, and the fact that it's media, I think will get a lot of attention," he said at the time. "However, I don't see this as a major antitrust problem."
He also previously worked as a lobbyist for AT&T, although he also opposed that company's bid to buy T-Mobile in 2011.
The proposed $86 billion deal between AT&T and Time Warner prompted widespread opposition from organizations that fight for media diversity and an open internet. The advocacy group Free Press warned in October that mergers between massive companies come at the expense of customers and fair competition.
"Any time you hear media executives talking about synergies, throwing around the business-babble that always accompanies these rumors, you know it's time grab your wallet and hang on tight. Big mergers like this inevitably mean higher prices for real people, to pay down the money borrowed to finance these deals and their golden parachutes," Free Press policy director Matt Wood said at the time.
Other mergers set to be reviewed under Delrahim are chemical giants Dow and Bayer bidding to buy Dupont and Monsanto, respectively.