Antitrust Law

Antitrust Chief Resigns; Obama Likely to Seek Aggressive Successor

The Justice Department’s antitrust chief has announced his resignation.

Assistant attorney general Thomas Barnett, who headed the antitrust division since 2005, will leave on Nov. 19, Reuters reports.

Barnett was known for aggressive enforcement of laws barring pricing conspiracies, but critics said he too-readily approved mergers between market-dominating companies, the story says. Some consumer advocates said he should not have allowed the merger of satellite radio companies Sirius and XM or the merger of Whirlpool and Maytag.

Barack Obama has been one of the critics, Dow Jones reports. In a policy statement to the American Antitrust Institute, Obama said, “Regrettably, the current administration has what may be the weakest record of antitrust enforcement of any administration in the last half-century.”

The Dow Jones story says Obama has expressed concern about competition in the energy, media, health-care and pharmaceutical industries.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey praised Barnett in a press release, calling him “an effective enforcer of the antitrust laws and a strong advocate for consumers.”

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