President-elect Donald Trump's choices to oversee his transition team's search for Federal Trade Commission members and the person who will run the Department of Justice's antitrust division gives some reassurance to businesses worried about candidate-Trump's off-the-cuff comments about mergers and competition policy.
Rather than fret that Trump will make good on threats to block mergers of companies whose executives have criticized him or ticked him off some other way, the appointments of conservative scholar Joshua Wright and former DOJ official and Hunton & Williams partner David Higbee to search for prospective FTC and DOJ nominees have given dealmakers and Washington hands every reason to believe the incoming administration's antitrust policies will be in line with traditional Republican practice, which is to approach mergers with a light touch.
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Editor's pick: This story was originally published on Dec. 23, 2016.
The test of that faith will come when Trump actually announces his picks, which will include an assistant attorney general to run the Justice's antitrust division and three FTC members to fill the seats already vacated by the Republican Wright, Democrat Julie Brill and the predicted resignation of Democratic chairwoman Edith Ramirez.
"I expect the direction the Trump Administration takes will be driven largely by the individuals who end up on in leadership positions at the Antitrust Division and the FTC," said Logan Breed, an antitrust partner at Hogan Lovells.