Trump’s pick to lead antitrust division raises concerns over vertical mergers

President Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Justice’s antitrust division said that vertical mergers, such as the proposed AT&T-Time Warner deal, can “raise competitive concerns.”

“I think every transaction should be reviewed based on its particular facts and circumstances,” Makan Delrahim wrote in response to questions submitted by a group of Democratic senators. 

“Thus, just because a transaction or particular types of transactions have been approved in the past does not mean that they could not raise competitive concerns in the future.”

The comment was made in response to a question submitted to the record by Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenFair, pro-growth tax policy can help energy consumers Franken walks back defense of event with Kathy Griffin Franken: Clinton, Dems need to ‘move on’ from 2016 loss MORE (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, about how Delrahim sees vertical mergers, which are deals between companies in different sectors of an industry.

In a response to a similar question posed by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharFranken dodges on backing 'terrific' Klobuchar for 2020 bid Trump's pick to lead antitrust division raises concerns over vertical mergers Cruz: Jokes about me in Franken's book 'obnoxious' MORE (D-Minn.), Delrahim said that the vertical deals most deserving of scrutiny are ”those where there is risk that either upstream or downstream competition may be foreclosed by the transaction,” though he declined to comment on specific mergers.

Axios first reported on Delrahim’s responses.

Franken also pressed Delrahim, a deputy White House counsel, on what role the antitrust division should play in ensuring an open internet in the absence of net neutrality rules.

“To the extent that firms with market power take anticompetitive exclusionary actions to limit competition on the internet, the Antitrust Division can and should use the antitrust laws to protect that competition,” Delrahim answered. “It would not be appropriate to utilize the antitrust laws to reach objectives beyond protecting competition."

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