With the Justice Department's announcement yesterday that Antitrust Division head Sharis Pozen is stepping down, speculation in the antitrust bar ramped up over her replacement.
William Baer of Arnold & Porter has the inside track for the job, well-connected lawyers agree, but other names in contention include O’Melveny & Myers antitrust chair Richard Parker, Senate antitrust subcommittee general counsel Seth Bloom and Antitrust Division deputy assistant attorney general Leslie Overton.
Baer heads the antitrust group at Arnold & Porter – the same firm that was lead antitrust counsel for AT& T Inc. in its failed $39 billion bid for T-Mobile USA Inc. Pozen’s highest-profile move as acting head of the Antitrust Division was filing suit to block the deal in August. The merger was abandoned by the companies in December.
Bear, who headed the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition from 1995 until 2000, is widely regarded as one of the top antitrust lawyers in the country (The National Law Journal in 2010 named him one of most influential lawyers of the decade). He did not return a call seeking comment.
Also in the mix: Parker of O’Melveny, who is also a former head of the Bureau of Competition and is known for his skill as a litigator. He declined comment.
Antitrust Subcommittee GC Bloom is also mentioned. As a Senate staffer with the strong backing of his boss, Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.), who is retiring at the end of the year, Bloom may have an advantage when it comes to confirmability. Bloom “has been critical to the revived Congressional attention to key merger cases such as AT&T/T-Mobile and has the experience and savvy to continue the sound progressive policies of the administration,” said David Balto, a former FTC policy director. Bloom declined comment.
Another candidate is Leslie Overton, a former partner at Jones Day who is now at the Antitrust Division. She is married to George Washington University Law School professor Spencer Overton, who raised $500,000 for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008.
Pozen announced she will leave DOJ on April 30. A former partner at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells), she joined DOJ in 2009 and was named acting head of the Antitrust Division in August 2011 after the departure of Christine Varney, who is now a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve in the Antitrust Division and in this administration for the past three years,” she said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for the dedicated men and women of the division who devote themselves to protecting American consumers from anticompetitive conduct.” Pozen is reportedly not talking to law firms about future employment until she leaves DOJ.
“Sharis has been incredibly effective as head of the antitrust division,” said Janet McDavid, an antitrust partner as Hogan Lovells, who worked with Pozen at the firm. “She has brought to bear her substantive knowledge, her management skills and her people skills to run the division very effectively.”