The Obama Administration’s chief antitrust enforcer has signaled her plan to ratchet up the enforcement of antitrust laws. As one of her first steps, the new Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Christine Varney, scrapped as too lenient an antitrust policy on monopolization adopted in the waning days of the Bush administration.
Ms. Varney has a substantial background in trade associations. In private practice, she specialized in industry initiatives for self-regulation, especially in online activities. An early test may come from Senator Hatch’s pushing for action against the Division 1 colleges’ Bowl Championship Series. (Senator Hatch has expressed displeasure that the University of Utah did not play for the national football championship, despite its undefeated season.) Senator Hatch pointedly asked her about whether she would join in his attack at her confirmation hearing.
Regardless of the outcome of the BCS issue, trade associations should expect increased scrutiny from the Department of Justice in standard-setting activities. The new woman at the top of the Antitrust Division has a strong interest and sophistication in association standard-setting.