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PANEL PONDERS STRIPPING FTC OF MERGER POWER Should Congress strip the Federal Trade Commission of its merger-review authority? A vocal minority among a special commission charged with brainstorming improvements to the merger process says yes. The Antitrust Modernization Commission, which legislation created in 2002, is evaluating various aspects of antitrust law. Congress created the panel because many of the rules for guarding competition in the U.S. economy were not created by statute, but have evolved through a century of court decisions. The AMC has just begun deliberating on a final report to Congress. Last week, the commission debated the pitfalls of the federal merger-review process, which often can become an expensive and arduous road for companies. A final report to Congress on suggested revisions to merger-review policies and other antitrust practices must be submitted to Congress in April 2007. Eliminating the FTC role would put all merger reviews under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice. While some members-generally those who once worked at Justice-suggested doing away with the FTC’s authority, few other AMC members are giving the single-agency proposal serious consideration. Instead, last week the members debated whether there should be legislation that would speed the process of assigning or “clearing” mergers to an agency faster. � The Deal D.C. BLOGGER BURNING THROUGH ATTORNEYS WASHINGTON � Jessica Cutler seems to be burning through attorneys faster than boyfriends. The former Senate staffer, who detailed her sexual escapades in a blog that became public in May 2004, is the subject of an invasion of privacy suitfiled by ex-lover Robert Steinbuch. Now she’s about to be dropped by her third law firm since Steinbuch’s suit was filed, in May 2005. Cutler’s attorney, solo practitioner John Umana, moved last week to withdraw because “defendant has not paid fees to undersigned counsel.” It’s not the first time Cutler, who reportedly received a $300,000 advance for a novel based on her blog, has not paid her legal bills. According to a suit filed in D.C. Superior Court, Cutler paid her first law firm, D.C.’s Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, $35,000 but still owes them $54,271.19. Her second lawyer, William Bode of Bode & Grenier, dropped out after he was accused by Steinbuch attorney Jonathan Rosen of being one of the sexual partners described in Cutler’s blog, a charge Bode denies. Umana, it appears, just wants to be paid, adding in his motion that “should the situation change, undersigned would consider further representation of the defendant.” � Legal Times

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