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US: DOJ seeks to influence competition cases: FT

 |  January 20, 2020

According to a report from The Financial Times, the Trump administration embarked on an extensive effort to sway judges in antitrust cases in 2019, with the Justice Department filing more legal arguments in competition lawsuits where it was not a party over 12 months than the Obama administration did in eight years. 

Makan Delrahim, who was appointed by Donald Trump in 2017 to lead the Antitrust Division, has spearheaded an “amicus programme” under which justice department lawyers are increasingly inserting themselves into antitrust litigation to advise judges how to rule. 

The antitrust chief has been “especially aggressive” in weighing in on cases where the justice department is not a party, said Jonathan Jacobson, an antitrust partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who called the effort “absolutely the right thing to do.” He said Mr Delrahim had probably “filed more of these briefs per month than anyone in division history.”

In fiscal year 2019, the Antitrust Division filed 20 briefs in district and appeals court cases in which it was not a party, outstripping by far any year since 1970, the earliest date for which the Justice Department provides records. The increase in amicus brief activity contrasts with the historically low number of criminal antitrust prosecutions the division brought last year.

The drive has drawn fire from Democrats like David Cicilline, the chair of the House antitrust subcommittee, who claimed in a letter in May that the Division was “prioritising side projects over its main job,” reported the FT. He accused Mr Delrahim of running the Division “more like an industry-funded think-tank than our nation’s premier antitrust enforcer.”

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