July 25, 2009

Obama’s antitrust chief faces resistance

A top U.S. antitrust official is getting resistance within the Obama administration to her efforts to expand antitrust enforcement, officials and analysts say.

Christine Varney, who heads the antitrust division in the Department of Justice, has been looking into antitrust issues involving the telecommunications, pharmaceutical, agricultural, financial and travel industries. But she has run into resistance from other administration officials and members of Congress, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Varney has been examining complaints by AT&T Corp. and Verizon Wireless that large cable operators improperly keep them from acquiring sports and other content the cable companies produce, industry lawyers told the Times. She is also looking into allegations that large food concerns are unfairly harming smaller agricultural operations.

Some administration officials are resisting the newly aggressive posture out of concern that it could hurt the private sector as the economy looks for a way out of a deep recession. Others think consumers can benefit from efficiencies created by bigger companies and wider industry alliances, the newspaper said.