Justice calls in antitrust lawsuit lawyers after filing lawsuit

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The Justice Department is stepping up its hiring of antitrust lawyers as the Biden administration prepares to deliver on its promise to bring alleged competition violators to justice.

The antitrust division is filling “numerous vacancies” in San Francisco, Washington, New York and Chicago, according to a federal job site. It is looking for “experienced trial and second president attorneys to take on leadership roles in high-profile antitrust and competition cases,” the USAJOBS.gov post reads.

The division has already brought in two plaintiffs’ attorneys with decades of experience in prosecuting corporations – Bonny Sweeney, an antitrust attorney of more than 20 years at Hausfeld in San Francisco and other firms, and attorney pleading Robins Kaplan’s Aaron Sheanin.

“Because of the types of people they’re hiring, maybe they’re planning more action,” said Phil Korologos, co-head of antitrust and competition practice at Boies Schiller Flexner.

The antitrust division is preparing to file a complaint against Alphabet Inc.‘s Google in the coming weeks on the search engine’s dominance of the online advertising market, Bloomberg News reported on July 14, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Jonathan Kanter, the antitrust chief, said he preferred lawsuits to block troublesome mergers than settlements that allow deals to continue. His team is “turning the page on a failed experiment,” referring to past laissez-faire merger policy, Bloomberg News reported earlier this year.

Sweeney and Sheanin declined to respond to requests for comment on their hires. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the hiring effort.

Catch up

The Biden administration is playing “catch-up” in hiring for key justice positions after a slow start to filling the positions, Korologos said.

The Antitrust Division is offering to pay a senior litigation attorney between $145,831 and $176,300 a year, according to the federal jobs site.

“Attorneys hired can expect to be assigned significant substantive and leadership responsibilities and to be immediately involved in antitrust matters of national significance,” the post said.

Sweeney and Sheanin in their new roles are part of a litigation unit that Kanter formed within the division.

“We are more committed than ever to taking legal action when we believe a violation has occurred,” Kanter said in a speech three months ago. He renewed this commitment at a July 12 conference, saying, “We need to take cases to court.

While the judiciary or other competition officials in the administration are unlikely to trigger a case blitz anytime soon, they will likely bring a small number of big lawsuits that could take years, Chris said. Sagers, professor of law at Cleveland State University.

Agencies are likely to bring in Big Law stars as “special agents” to conduct “big lawsuits,” Sagers said.

The Justice Department under President Obama hired Renata Hesse, then with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, when the agency was preparing to challenge the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, he noted.

The Justice Department under President Clinton tapped attorney David Boies, who is best known for the work of plaintiffs, to successfully lead the monopolization lawsuits against Microsoft Corp. in the late 1990s.

Sweeney

Sweeney left her partnership at Hausfeld on July 15 for a judging job she has yet to start, law firm partners Megan Jones and Scott Martin said July 22.

Sweeney led private plaintiff-side antitrust prosecutions for more than a quarter century, including for Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, before moving to Hausfeld.

In 2014, she was part of the trial team of plaintiffs against Apple for alleged anti-competitive conduct involving older versions of the company’s iPod music devices.

Most recently, Sweeney served as co-lead class counsel in In re Google Play Store Antitrust Litigationa monopolization case against Google for alleged illegal practices related to the Google Play Store.

On July 1, Hausfeld announced approval of a proposed $90 million settlement with Google in the matter.

“Bonny is a force in litigation,” Hausfeld’s Jones said in a statement. “She has decades of private enforcement experience, doing the hard work of developing a case to put a case in front of a jury.”

sheanin

Sheanin said on LinkedIn that he began working as trial counsel in June. “It’s an incredible honor to be able to enforce antitrust laws and promote fair competition,” he said in a message.

Sheanin, who like Sweeney is based in Northern California, also has more than a decade as a top antitrust attorney.

This includes working as lead co-lawyer in In re Wells Fargo Collateral Protection Insurance Litigationa class action lawsuit on behalf of more than two million auto loan borrowers on whose accounts Wells Fargo & Co. and an insurance company imposed unnecessary auto insurance on borrowers.

While Justice’s move to bring in high-level litigants is noteworthy, it remains to be seen whether that translates into more aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws, said Michael Carrier, a professor at Rutgers Law School.

“These cases take a long time to start,” he said. “The assumption is certainly that this administration would be more aggressive than the previous one.”

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