Canada's former competition watchdog rejoins law firm

OTTAWA Mon Jan 14, 2013 12:53pm EST

OTTAWA Jan 14 (Reuters) - The former head of Canada's competition watchdog, Melanie Aitken, has rejoined the Bennett Jones law firm where she will draw on her regulatory expertise to advise clients on investments in the country, the firm said on Monday.

Aitken will co-chair Bennett Jones' antitrust and competition practice, and help U.S. and Canadian clients steer their way through any hurdles arising from their dealings in Canada from her base in Washington.

Aitken was a partner at the business law firm before she joined Canada's Competition Bureau in 2005.

"The addition of Melanie and a Washington office will provide our U.S. and Canadian clients with exceptional Canadian legal services and insight", says Hugh MacKinnon, Bennett Jones chairman and chief executive.

Aitken headed the Competition Bureau from 2009 until last September, when she stepped down two years before her term expired.

The independent agency is charged with reviewing major business deals to ensure fair competition. It has the power to challenge mergers, negotiate conditions with the companies involved and refer them to a special competition tribunal.

Aitken earned a reputation for being tough as Canada's top antitrust official. She made full use of new powers granted by the government and went after credit card companies, realtors and mobile telephone companies for practices she suspected were harmful to consumers.

One of her last decisions was to sue Canada's three leading phone companies for what she said was the promotion of costly texting services, while giving the impression they were free.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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