President Donald Trump's nominee to run the Justice Department's antitrust operations will appear before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning for his confirmation hearing.
If approved by the Senate, Makan Delrahim would take over the DOJ's Antitrust Division as it's reviewing several major proposed mergers, including pending tie-ups between AT&T (T - Get Report) and Time Warner (TW , Bayer AG (BAYN and Monsanto (MON , and Dow Chemical (DOW and DuPont (DD . It's also conducting a criminal investigation into alleged collusion among pharmaceutical companies to fix prices for generic drugs.
Delrahim can expect questions from committee members about questionable remarks President Trump made on the campaign trail suggesting he would urge the DOJ to challenge the Time Warner deal as payback for what Trump complained was favoritism for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by Time Warner-owned news channel CNN.
Such a move would be an egregious breach of public trust if Delrahim gave in to such pressure and he'll undoubtedly be asked about his preparedness to stand up against any request from the White House to carry out a political vendetta.
Delrahim is also likely to be questioned about his work as an outside lobbyist for Anthem (ANTM - Get Report) in its $54 billion bid for Cigna (CI - Get Report) , a fact that has led some to predict he'll support Anthem's pitch for the DOJ to rethink its opposition to the merger if the deal hasn't broken up by the time he's confirmed. The DOJ is currently asking a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court order blocking the merger.
Delrahim will likely tell lawmakers he'll recuse himself from involvement in the Anthem-Cigna tie-up and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will subject him to a roasting if he doesn't.
It's also likely the matter will be moot by Friday, which is the date Cigna is free to walk from the transaction and the company has given every indication that's what it intends to do.
In a statement to the New York Times Tuesday, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary panel's Antitrust Subcommittee, said she plans "to ask if Mr. Delrahim will enforce the laws to protect American consumers and if he will commit to being independent, focusing on the merits of each case, not on interference from the White House."
The Tehran, Iran-born graduate of George Washington University School of Law was an early supporter of Trump and previously was a partner at Los Angeles-based law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, where he worked as an antitrust lawyer and lobbyist.
Delrahim has worked at the DOJ before. Before joining private practice he had been deputy assistant attorney general in the antitrust division. Intellectual property and international merger cooperation were key responsibilities of his. His colleagues expect he will preserve established practice in U.S. competition law—which is to focus almost exclusively on consumer welfare—and won't seek to add other factors like boosting employment into DOJ antitrust decisions.
Prior to DOJ he had been a staff member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including stints as staff director and chief counsel.
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