DOJ’s #2 Antitrust Official Leaves To Re-Join Fried Frank

The DOJ’s No. 2 in its antitrust division has left the Department to return to private practice after a three-year stint helping lead many of the biggest merger investigations of the Trump administration, reported Bloomberg.

Barry Nigro, who was the division’s principal deputy assistant attorney general, is returning to his old law firm, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP in Washington, where he will chair the global antitrust practice, the firm announced Monday, October 26.

“We are pleased to welcome back Barry as chair of our Antitrust and Competition Department,” said David J. Greenwald, chairman of Fried Frank. “His experience leading significant antitrust matters at the Department of Justice and previous service as Deputy Director overseeing the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, coupled with his extensive experience in private practice, will provide critical insight to our clients in M&A transactions and antitrust investigations and litigation.”

Nigro joined the antitrust division from Fried Frank in August 2017, about three months before the administration sued to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, a lawsuit the Justice Department ultimately lost. The case marked the first time in decades the government sued to block a merger between companies that didn’t compete directly, but it was clouded by politics because of President Donald Trump’s repeated criticism of Time Warner’s CNN.

After AT&T, Nigro went on to work on other high-profile deals, including Bayer AG’s US$66 billion takeover of Monsanto and T-Mobile US’s US$26.5 billion acquisition of Sprint. In both investigations, the Justice Department required asset sales worth billions of dollars to resolve concerns the deals would harm competition. States unsuccessfully sued to stop the Sprint deal earlier this year.

Nigro, who worked under Makan Delrahim, the head of the antitrust division, said Bayer is among the biggest accomplishments during his tenure. The 2018 settlement required the companies to sell US$9 billion of assets to resolve the government’s concerns the deal would harm competition, one of the largest merger divestitures ever. The Department came close to filing a lawsuit to block the merger, Nigro said in an interview.

Nigro and Delrahim were recused from the government’s lawsuit last week against Alphabet’s Google, accusing the search giant of abusing its monopoly. The lawsuit marked the most significant monopoly case in the US in two decades.