Baer did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday. He told Senators during his hearing in July that he had no pre-set agenda for the division, and added that his leadership would mean that not much would change. He told the Judiciary Committee, in questions from Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), that he would focus on consumers.
"I would take this job, if confirmed, with a little bit of humility about what might need to be changed. I think the Antitrust Division has been well run in recent years," Baer testified. He said former assistant attorney general Christine Varney, and two acting assistant attorney generals, Sharis Pozen and Joseph Wayland, "are people I admire and respect and who I think have done a very good job."
Baer will join DOJ on the heels of the antitrust division's successful effort to stop the $39 billion merger between AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA. A team from Arnold & Porter, including Richard Rosen and Donna Patterson, defended AT&T in the litigation in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
"Bill is a highly-skilled and well-respected antitrust lawyer who understands the importance of promoting competition in order for consumers to reap the benefits of lower prices and better quality products and services," Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a written statement. "I have no doubt that he will lead the Antitrust Division effectively in its vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws."
Baer, nominated in February, had awaited final Senate approval since the Judiciary Committee approved him in September. He finally got a vote Sunday during an extra weekend session, when legislators were focused on negotiations about tax and spending cuts to resolve the fiscal cliff. Had the Senate not voted, the White House would have had to re-nominate him next year.
Baer is one of the most respected attorneys in the field, said Richard Parker, chair of the antitrust and competition practice at OMelveny & Myers and a friend of Baer. "This is really good for antitrust, and really good for the United States," Parker said. "Bill is terrific."
This article originally appeared as a post on The BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes.