WASHINGTON May 10 Makan Delrahim, who was
chosen by President Donald Trump to be the top U.S. antitrust
regulator, said on Wednesday that he would maintain independence
from the White House in enforcing antitrust law.
The Senate must still vote to confirm Delrahim.
In a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee
overshadowed by repercussions over Trump's firing of Federal
Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, Delrahim
reiterated that he would recuse himself from a fight over
whether health insurer Anthem may merge with rival Cigna.
Delrahim had worked for Anthem as a lobbyist when he was
with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP.
Obama's Justice Department sued to stop the deal, and the
case is currently under appeal.
Asked what he would do if the White House wanted to discuss
a deal being considered by the division, Delrahim said antitrust
enforcement was law enforcement.
"The independence of the decisions made in prosecuting and
reviewing mergers as well as other conduct is a serious one that
should be free from any political influence," he said. "They
will be free if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed."
Delrahim currently works in the White House as deputy
assistant and deputy counsel to the president.
If confirmed as expected, Delrahim's antitrust division
would review corporate mergers at a time when many investors and
corporate executives are anticipating a more relaxed view of
Former President Barack Obama's administration faced a large
number of megadeals in what one enforcer called a "merger
tsunami" and blocked many of them.
Antitrust experts who have followed Delrahim's career expect
him to follow in the footsteps of a former boss, Hewitt Pate,
who was assistant attorney general for antitrust from 2003 to
2005. Delrahim was Pate's deputy, specializing in international
Under Pate, the division was criticized for allowing too
many deals, but it sued to stop US Airways from merging with
United Airlines and blocked a deal to combine DirecTV and
EchoStar. It tried but failed to stop Oracle Corp from buying
If confirmed, Delrahim would oversee the Justice
Department's assessment of AT&T's Inc plan to buy Time
Warner Inc, the owner of HBO, Warner Brothers and news
The department is reviewing major transactions in seeds and
agricultural chemicals, like the mergers of Dow Chemical Co
and Dupont, and of Bayer and Monsanto
. Those proposed deals, along with ChemChina's purchase
of Syngenta, would consolidate six agricultural
chemical companies into three.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz)