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Newsletter | Revolving Door Project Newsletter | February 23, 2022

To Scare Monopolies, DOJ Antitrust Division Needs Reinforcements

AntitrustConfirmation CrisisIndependent Agencies

On nominations, Republicans escalate…again.

This edition of the Revolving Door Project newsletter was originally published on our Substack. View and subscribe here.

It’s a short week, so we’ll be keeping it brief. Here are the highlights you don’t want to miss. 

Governance

The Department of Justice Antitrust Division is once again stepping up its efforts to tackle the corporate greed that is helping to drive the recent spike in inflation. On Thursday, the Department announced that it would be bringing new scrutiny to supply chain profiteers. This is the latest indication that Jonathan Kanter’s Antitrust division is serious about tackling corporate consolidation and its ill-effects across the breadth of the economy. In recent months, the division has also set its sights on BigTech, shipping and rail, and meat, among other industries. It has simultaneously promised to change its approach to enforcement by bringing lawsuits instead of seeking settlements and begun the process of updating the guidelines it uses to review mergers. Altogether, that’s a big agenda. 

In a new report, my colleague Dylan Gyauch-Lewis asks how the Division’s resources stack up to its growing workload. Looking at the Division’s funding and staffing levels in historical perspective and against measures like the number of annual merger filings, he concludes that it will likely require an infusion of new cash and staff to carry it off as effectively and efficiently as possible. Already, Dylan argues, the failure to more robustly fund the Antitrust division over a year after President Biden’s inauguration is delaying the impact of the administration’s anti-monopoly policies. “Law360 has reported that ‘Antitrust professionals’ believe that Kanter’s more aggressive enforcement will be ‘tempered by limited government resources,’” meaning that many are not meaningfully changing their behavior. Beating back corporate consolidation will require that monopolies come to see the Antitrust division as a meaningful threat. 

I encourage you to read the full report here. And if you’re interested in the story at the DOJ Antitrust division’s counterpart, the Federal Trade Commission, check out our blog from last year. 

Independent Agencies

As I noted last week, Republicans are once again stepping up their obstruction tactics to block President Biden’s nominees. Apparently, it is not enough that confirmation times under Biden have reached their highest recorded level at an average of 103 days from nomination to confirmation. Nor are Republicans satisfied merely holding qualified nominees for months for unrelated and superficial reasons. They want the ability to permanently block the Senate from exercising its advice and consent function. 

Of course, putting this latest move in its proper historical context requires reaching further back than January 20, 2021. Under President Trump, Senate Republicans were willing participants in a campaign to block Democrats’ nominees to minority party seats on independent agency boards, in some cases for the duration of Trump’s presidency. Under President Obama, they used various methods, including blue slips, to deny up or down votes for qualified judicial nominees. 

In other words, this tactic may be new but it fits neatly within a well-worn playbook. As Democrats craft a response, they must take that into account. 

Personnel 

Office of Financial Research (OFR) Director Dino Falaschetti, a Trump holdover who was seemingly intent on destroying the office from within, is leaving at the end of this week. Read my colleague Toni Aguilar-Rosenthal’s blog on OFR’s importance and why Falaschetti needed to go.   

Want more? Check out some of the pieces that we have published or contributed research or thoughts to in the last week:

Making The Antitrust Division Competitive: A Look At Capacity As Biden Revitalizes Enforcement

Dino Falaschetti and the Decimation of the OFR 

New Report Examines Treasury Research Division’s Destruction and Its Consequences for Climate Regulation

Four escalating foreign problems test Biden’s reaction speed

Senate Republicans Unveil Tactic to Potentially Block All Biden Nominees 

Economist in running for Treasury job worked at secretive firm co-founded by Biden’s secretary of State

Biden pressured by the Left on student loans 

The Oil Industry And Its GOP Allies Are Trying To Sink Biden’s Climate-Focused Fed Pick

The FCC and FTC are still hobbled by vacancies. It’s not the first time.

In Bessemer and the South, Black Workers Hold the Key 

Lawmakers’ family connections to tech spur scrutiny

AntitrustConfirmation CrisisIndependent Agencies

More articles by Eleanor Eagan

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