Big Tech has a huge stake in who Biden ultimately staffs his antitrust and tech regulators. These individuals will decide how aggressively to carry out Biden’s promises of reining in the political and market power of these companies. If Big Tech gets its way, Biden will staff his antitrust teams with its attorneys and allies, who have pushed back against calls to break up these monopolies and protected them against regulation and enforcement. But if Biden wants to keep his campaign promises to take on monopolies, he must shut the revolving door between the federal government and Big Tech. That starts by rejecting for top jobs the following Big Tech allies:
Juan Arteaga is a partner at Crowell & Moring, where helped clear AT&T’s merger with Time Warner after previously arguing against the company in a different antitrust case and represented United Technologies in its acquisition of Rockwell Collins. He previously worked in Obama’s Department of Justice Antitrust Division where he failed to take action against an airline merger which the Machinists’ union specifically pleaded to block. Before joining the Obama Administration, he worked at Simpson Thatcher, where he defended JPMorgan Chase’s anti-competitive collusion with other banks to rig the LIBOR exchange benchmark.
After leaving the Obama Administration’s White House Counsel office, where her judicial nominations team appointed corporate lawyers to 71% of open judgeships, Susan Davies joined the conservative law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Former employer to Brett Kavanaugh; Robert Bork; Ken Starr; and Trump Attorney General William Barr, Kirkland & Ellis has been known as a holding pen for conservative lawyers between Republican Administrations. Trump’s Department of Justice was so full of Kirkland lawyers that one of the top officials joked, “our philosophy is that an agency can never be led by too many lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis.” The firm is also known for taking on notorious clients like Jeffrey Epstein and defending BP after the devastating Deepwater Horizon spill. Davies herself has defended Facebook and several other corporate clients who faced antitrust investigations.
Renata Hesse is a Sullivan & Cromwell antitrust lawyer who has practiced antitrust law on behalf of Amazon (in its acquisition of Whole Foods), Google (to quash an anti-monopoly investigation in Texas, alongside then-lawyer Ted Cruz), and American Express. She served in Obama’s DOJ Antitrust Division as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust where she approved several large mergers, including between Time-Warner Cable and Comcast, US Airways and American Airlines, Arcadian and Humana, and AT&T and T-Mobile. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Hesse worked at Google’s go-to law firm Wilson Sonsini.
Sonia Pfaffenroth is an antitrust lawyer who most recently worked for Arnold & Porter defending pharmaceutical, fossil fuel, and mining companies. She has cycled between private law and the Antitrust division of the Department of Justice, serving as the Deputy Assistant General and Deputy Assistant General for Operations, and oversaw several major mergers and acquisitions.
Gene Kimmelman is a senior adviser at the Google, Microsoft and Facebook funded think tank Public Knowledge, and previously served as chief counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division from 2009-2014. Public Knowledge has undercut strong antitrust enforcement of companies like Google and Amazon, arguing that the companies are not monopolistic enough for the antitrust agencies to break up.
In the Obama Administration, Terrell McSweeny served as an FTC commissioner, where she approved several big pharma mergers, including for Pzier, Actavis, and Abbott Labs. She is a longtime Biden ally, serving as Biden’s deputy chief of staff when he was in the Senate. McSweeny also worked as a Competition Policy counsel at DOJ Antitrust and a domestic policy advisor to Biden during Obama’s first term. After leaving the FTC in 2018, McSweeny joined Covington & Burling, a law firm that advises large corporations on mergers and antitrust regulations.
Steven Sunshine was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division from 1993-1995. Since then he has worked in BigLaw for Shearman and Sterling, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, and, since 2007, Skadden Arps. Throughout his law career, Sunshine has represented corporations in heavily consolidated industries, including Big Tech, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.
Fiona Scott Morton is a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Economic Analysis with the DOJ’s Antitrust division and current director of Yale University’s Thurman Arnold Project, which receives Microsoft. She has received funding for her academic work from Tesla and has consulted for Amazon and Apple.
Jon Leibowitz is a Counsel at Davis Polk, and a former Chairman of the FTC under Obama. He oversaw significant revisions of horizontal merger guidelines during his time at the FTC. He’s revolved in and out of government and lobbying/BigLaw jobs for over twenty years, and permitted some of the most high-profile Big Tech mergers at the FTC currently under scrutiny, such as Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick and Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram.
Howard Shelanski is a partner at BigLaw firm Davis Polk. Shelanski was the Administrator of OIRA and the Director of the Bureau of Economics at the FTC between stints at Davis Polk, where he advises corporate clients on antitrust and competition issues. He is currently advising Facebook in the ongoing FTC antitrust suit and also advised the Biden campaign on antitrust issues.
David Gelfand is a longtime antitrust partner at BigLaw firm Cleary Gottlieb. He worked at Antitrust Division as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Litigation under the Obama Administration where he oversaw investigations and litigation in antitrust enforcement matters including: USAir/AA, Comcast/TWC, Halliburton/Baker Hughes, and General Electric/Electrolux mergers. He most recently led Cleary in advising on the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, and his past clients include Google, Sanofi, and other merger-fueled corporations.
Debbie Feinstein is a prominent antitrust lawyer at BigLaw firm Arnold & Porter and the former Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. She has represented many corporate clients in front of the FTC and DOJ since returning to Arnold & Porter, including Google, AT&T, and multiple Big pharma, medtech and food corporations. During her tenure as Bureau of Competition director, the FTC largely abandoned attempts to block mergers outright, as Feinstein believed consent orders to be just as effective in maintaining competition.
Michael McFalls is an antitrust partner at Ropes & Gray who worked on multiple prominent merger cases including Covidien/Newport Instruments, Google/DoubleClick and RJR/Brown & Williamson. He started his career at the FTC before joining Jones Day and later Ropes & Gray. RDP profiled McFalls in Washington Monthly in June 2020.
PHOTO: “Mark Zuckerberg f8 Keynote” by Brian Solis is licensed under Creative Commons.