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Public Statements

Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitust - On Nominee William Baer

Hearing

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

We meet today regarding the nomination of Bill Baer to be Assistant Attorney General to head the Antitrust Division. Mr. Baer possesses an impressive list of qualifications for this important position. A proud native of Wisconsin, he served as Director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition during the 1990s, and for the last decade has been the head of the antitrust practice at the major Washington law firm of Arnold & Porter.

Mr. Baer, your nomination comes at a particularly crucial time for antitrust enforcement. As our economy continues to face challenges and consumers' pocketbooks are stretched, we depend on vigorous competition to spur economic growth in our economy. Only aggressive enforcement of our nation's antitrust laws will ensure that competition flourishes and consumers obtain the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices.

The last three years have seen a revival of antitrust enforcement in the Justice Department. These efforts culminated in last year's courageous decision to file suit to oppose the blatantly anticompetitive AT&T/T-Mobile merger -- which led to the parties abandoning the deal.

But antitrust enforcement requires constant vigilance, and the issues facing the Antitrust Division today are no less serious. For example, the Division is currently examining the transactions between Verizon and four of the nation's largest cable TV companies. As my letter to the Justice Department in May pointed out, it is crucial that the Justice Department ensures that nothing in this deal will harm the competitive battle between Verizon and the cable companies for Internet and video service, often the only real choice for these vital telecom services for millions of consumers. And, in key industries as diverse as the Internet and high tech, media and book publishing, aviation, and agriculture, the Justice Department will be called upon to stand as a bastion protecting competition.

Moreover, the Justice Department is currently implementing its plans to close four of its seven regional field offices. Many antitrust experts, including most of the senior leadership of the field offices, and also myself, have serious concerns about what this closure will mean for the detection and antitrust enforcement directed against local conspiracies. We will be closely watching your leadership of the Antitrust Division to insure that you maintain the resources necessary to combat local antitrust conspiracies in the many areas of the nation that will no longer have local Antitrust Division offices.

Mr. Baer, the position of Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust carries with it a special burden, and a special responsibility. The companies over whom the Antitrust Division has jurisdiction have ample resources to hire skilled and talented counsel to represent their best interests. But no one represents the interests of the American consumer other than the Antitrust Division. If you are confirmed, millions of consumers will be depending on your efforts and your judgment. You will inherit a proud legacy at the Antitrust Division, and it my sincere hope, and full expectation, that you will uphold this legacy once you are confirmed.


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