Trump's Top Merger Watchdog Approved as Blockbuster Deals Await

September 27, 2017 05:37 PM
Trump's Top Merger Watchdog Approved as Blockbuster Deals Await

(Bloomberg) -- Makan Delrahim, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division, was confirmed by the Senate as two blockbuster mergers await his review: AT&T Inc.’s takeover of Time Warner Inc. and Bayer AG’s deal for Monsanto Co.

Delrahim, 47, who was previously a deputy in Trump’s Office of White House Counsel, was approved by a vote of 73-21 Wednesday, six months after Trump first named him for the post.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who delayed a vote last month, opposed his confirmation, criticizing his lobbying on behalf of companies pursuing mergers. Delrahim will leave "big corporations alone to do pretty much whatever they want to do," Warren said during Senate debate about his confirmation Wednesday. 

"Now he wants to take a spin through the revolving door and regulate the industries he worked to make even less competitive," said the Massachusetts senator.

Delrahim takes over a division that is nearing the end of its investigation into AT&T’s bid for Time Warner, an $85.4 billion deal that would reshape the media landscape by uniting the biggest pay-TV distributor with the owner of CNN and HBO.

Trump, a frequent critic of CNN, assailed the merger on the campaign trail, saying the tie-up would concentrate media power.

When Delrahim was asked about White House influence on antitrust investigations at his Senate confirmation hearing in May, he said politics would play no role in the reviews.

Delrahim, who was a deputy assistant attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, doesn’t see big problems with the Time Warner deal, judging by his public statements. He told senators that vertical mergers that unite suppliers and distributors don’t typically raise competition concerns. He told Canadian business news channel BNN last year that the Time Warner deal doesn’t raise the same hurdles as a merger of two direct competitors.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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