WASHINGTON A Republican antitrust veteran has
been named on Monday to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's
transition team for the Justice Department, a choice that
lawyers say signals a more hands-off approach to antitrust
enforcement compared to Democratic President Barack Obama.
David Higbee, a partner at the law firm Hunton & Williams
LLP, worked for President George W. Bush's administration from
2001 to 2005, spending the last year in the Antitrust Division.
Since then he has advised clients on merger reviews, antitrust
litigation and government investigations.
Higbee joins Joshua Wright, an economist and former
commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, as the only two
people on Trump's transition team with a background in
The Obama administration has challenged an unusually large
number of mergers in the last few years, leading to the collapse
of Halliburton Co's plan to buy Baker Hughes Inc
, among others. Currently, the Justice Department is
suing Anthem Inc to prevent it from buying Cigna Corp
and Aetna Inc to stop its purchase of Humana Inc
While Trump, who campaigned as a populist, has talked tough
on media mergers such as AT&T Inc buying Time Warner Inc
, and singled out Amazon.com Inc for antitrust
scrutiny, Higbee's naming heralds a return to a traditional
Republican view of merger enforcement, lawyers said.
"Higbee will have that sensible caution," said Bruce
McDonald, another veteran of the Bush administration now at the
law firm Jones Day. "He will be more confident in business and
markets and less confident that government can identify and fix
An antitrust division designed by Higbee would be tough on
price-fixing and mergers of competitors but would be cautious in
challenging deals where companies buy suppliers or incidents
where companies are accused of breaking antitrust law to run
competitors out of business, McDonald said.