When markets are competitive, the consumer wins,” Christine Varney told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce back in 2009. She blamed the ideology of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that, she claimed, let industries regulate themselves. “Higher prices, reduced product variety, and slower innovations” were the result, Varney said.
She promised her “trustbusters” would put market-smothering financial, health-care, energy, and telecom bosses in prison.
After two years, Varney left for a lucrative job with a New York law firm. Then her former boss, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., announced a $100 million-plus cost-savings plan that included shutting four of the seven regional antitrust offices, effective January. That included the Philadelphia office.
Don’t worry, Holder assured congressional critics. Fewer offices didn’t have to mean less prosecution. Antitrust lawyers could relocate to Washington or New York. “Consolidating the staff into larger teams will allow the team to more effectively and efficiently manage larger investigations,” division spokeswoman Gina Talamona said at the time.
But 14 of the 15 antitrust lawyers assigned to the Philadelphia office are out of the division. Ten have left government. Lawyers have also exited newly shut offices in Dallas, Atlanta, and Cleveland.
“The loss of the Antitrust Division employees to the department resulted in an irreparable loss of talented white-collar prosecutors,”
Spokeswoman Talamona declined to discuss the lawyers’ individual decisions, or detail how Antitrust will “effectively and efficiently manage larger investigations,” without cutting its caseload, after losing so many veterans.
If by “manage” they mean “ignore”, they’ll do just fine…