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Public Statements

Hearing Of The Senate Judiciary Committee


Location: Washington, DC

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SEN. KOHL: Good afternoon to you all.

We meet today regarding the nominations of three individuals to become assistant attorneys general and head vital components of the Justice Department -- Lanny Breuer to head the Criminal Division, Christine Varney to head the Antitrust Division, as well as Tony West to head the Civil Division. I congratulate all three of you on your impressive credentials and today's nomination.

Mr. Breuer, the Criminal Division plays a critical role in prosecuting a wide variety of crimes of public corruption to gang violence to child exploitation. Of particular note, if you are confirmed you'll work with the FBI and U.S. attorneys around the country to prosecute crimes in the wake of our financial crisis such as corporate, mortgage, and investment fraud and white collar crime.

Mr. West, the Civil Division has a critical function to represent and defend the United States, its agencies and departments, and cabinet members in thousands of cases per year. Notably, we also rely on the division to root out waste, fraud, and abuse in government contracting as well as to enforce consumer protection programs of the Food and Drug Administration to Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

As chairman of the Antitrust Subcommittee myself, Christine Varney's nomination to head the Antitrust Division is of particular interest to me. Ms. Varney, your nomination comes at a particularly crucial time for antitrust enforcement. As our economy is buffeted by a severe recession, we depend on vigorous competition to spur economic growth. Only aggressive enforcement of our nation's antitrust laws will ensure that competition flourishes and that consumers -- consumers obtain the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices.

Unfortunately, the record of the Antitrust Division during the previous administration was, in my opinion, deficient in many respects. Large mergers among direct competitors in highly- concentrated industries affecting millions of consumers met no resistance from the Antitrust Division despite the reported objections of career staff. We also saw sharp declines of antitrust enforcement with respect to other business practices threatening competition. The Antitrust Division even issued a report on monopolistic conduct that would dramatically close the door on antitrust enforcement against dominant firms that -- (inaudible) -- suppress competition, a position that drew the opposition of the Federal Trade Commission. The Justice Department filed several briefs before the Supreme Court advancing a very restrictive view of antitrust law.

At the Supreme Court, the department went so far as to oppose the FTC's efforts to sue brand name drug manufacturers who pay large sums of money to their generic competitors to keep the competition off the market. And so a record of passivity and at times even hostility towards antitrust enforcement must now be reversed. I think all nominees are here today for their dedication to public service and look forward to their testimony. I now turn to introductions. We are now going to listen to Jane Harmon who will introduce Christine Varney.

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