Press Releases

WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, delivered the following opening statement at a hearing for William Baer, nominee for Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division:

"Today we consider the nomination of William Baer to be the next Assistant Attorney General over the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  This is a position of enormous significance.  Since its establishment nearly 80 years ago, the Antitrust Division, together with the Federal Trade Commission, has been tasked with the enforcement of our nation’s antitrust laws.  

"As head of the Antitrust Division, the Assistant Attorney General oversees the Department’s criminal and civil enforcement of the antitrust laws, assisted by five Deputy Assistant Attorneys General and hundreds of attorneys and economists.  Over the past decade, the Division has conducted an average of 90 merger investigations and 28 non-merger investigations each year.  And over the last decade, the Division has levied $4.4 billion in fines on individuals and corporations.  Obviously, much is at stake as the Division establishes enforcement priorities, reviews mergers, investigates conduct, and litigates cases.  

"The Antitrust Division’s charge is to administer our nation’s antitrust laws faithfully so as to safeguard our free-market economy.  Robust competition maximizes consumer welfare by ensuring access to a broad variety of products at low prices.  Competition is also essential to innovation, as businesses have access to markets and are able to secure a reasonable return on productive investments.   

"There is much good—for the economy and for consumers—that can be accomplished through antitrust enforcement.  But there is also potential for abuse.  As a result, I believe the role of antitrust law is important, but limited.  

"Although much of antitrust law is by necessity forward looking, unmoored speculation about the potential effects that a transaction may have on various markets must not be allowed to overtake fundamental economic analysis.

"Antitrust regulators must also be wary of attempts to subvert their investigation or review process to advance political objectives or private financial ends.  I believe the Division should resist efforts by politicians to encourage antitrust enforcement as a back-door means to implement desired policy outcomes.  Antitrust officials must also be on guard against the inevitable attempts of competitors to use the investigatory or enforcement process primarily to harm rivals.  

"In short, antitrust officials must stay focused on the true purpose of the antitrust laws—to safeguard competition, rather than competitors, so as to maximize consumer welfare.  

"The government has a proper role in ensuring that businesses compete fairly and do not collude.  Such enforcement can forestall the need for more burdensome regulatory structures that impose greater costs on our economy and society.  But it is improper for antitrust enforcers to pick winners and losers in the marketplace or to interfere with private enterprise where robust market forces are in operation.  

"I look forward to discussing these principles with Mr. Baer as we consider his nomination."