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Press Release | May 17, 2023

Release: New Letter Urges President to Make Leadership Change at Surface Transportation Board

Executive BranchIndependent Agencies


Contact: Dylan Gyauch-Lewis, [email protected]

This morning, the Revolving Door Project, RootsAction, and FreedomBLOC published a letter to President Joe Biden imploring him to revoke Martin Oberman’s chairmanship of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and elevate Robert Primus to the position. We view Chairman Oberman’s vote to approve the merger between Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern Railway as fundamentally anathema to the administration’s revival of antitrust enforcement. Pro-competition measures have been the backbone of Biden-era economic policy, with revitalized enforcement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, National Labor Relations Board, and more. Allowing greater consolidation in the rail industry, which was already highly noncompetitive with only seven significant companies, is a severe blow to the government-wide effort to unrig markets ushered in by President Biden’s executive order on competition.

Indeed, Oberman and the STB approved the merger over objections from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and a majority of the Federal Maritime Commission (and all but one of the other Class I railways). A whole-of-government economic agenda requires leadership devoted to rebuilding an economy that works in the public interest. As we explain in the letter, we believe Chairman Oberman has eschewed this responsibility and should no longer be trusted to lead vital oversight of the American rail industry.

Revolving Door Project Executive Director Jeff Hauser issued the following statement about the letter:

“One of the greatest accomplishments of Biden’s presidency is his administration’s strong antitrust enforcement and pro-competition economic policy. In many ways this economic shift away from hands-off neoliberal oversight has been the defining feature of his tenure to date. Oberman has undermined both the American economy and the president’s legacy. Allowing further consolidation in one of the most concentrated industries in our economy leaves little room for confidence in his intent to advance the administration’s vital economic revitalization.”

“In 2021, President Biden issued his Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which directed the entire federal executive to protect competition in markets in the quest of rebuilding the economy from the middle out and bottom up. Consolidation of the railways is not only a prima facie violation of that initiative; it impairs the ability to build a workers’ economy. The rail industry plays a key role in our supply chains, a role that they have already been exploiting by price gouging and providing terrible service, in violation of their common carrier obligations. Rather than take them to task, Oberman has rewarded shareholders who incentivize that bad behavior with a windfall merger.”

Executive BranchIndependent Agencies

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