Davis Polk & Wardwell has hired antitrust partner Howard Shelanksi, who most recently served in the White House Office of Management and Budget as administrator of its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
The Wall Street firm is set to announce Shelanski’s hire on Tuesday. He will join Davis Polk’s office in Washington, D.C., sometime in early March. Shelanski will also continue teaching at the Georgetown University Law Center.
“While our antitrust practice is in great shape, this was one of the opportunities that no matter how good a shape you’re in [that] you don’t turn down,” said Thomas Reid, Davis Polk’s managing partner since 2011. “His experience stands out.”
The move is somewhat of a homecoming for Shelanski, who was an of counsel at Davis Polk from 2011 to 2012, when he joined the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as a director in its bureau of economics. He supervised economic analysis and advised the federal agency on policy matters, according to Davis Polk.
Shelanski said he was asked to join the firm back in 2011 by partners Arthur Burke and Ronan Harty, who he will work with again in his second stint at Davis Polk.
In 2016, amid an unprecedented level of scrutiny under the Obama administration, a number of Am Law 100 firms bulked up their antitrust practices. The election of President Donald Trump took most firms by surprise and prompted speculation about how the new administration will approach antitrust enforcement. During his campaign, the president said very little on the topic.
Reid said antitrust is “one of the most closely watched spaces,” but noted that the Trump administration’s position will remain unclear until he staffs up the FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division.
Reid added that Shelanski is “not a political person that is associated with one color or the other. He’s a terrific lawyer and economist, which is what antitrust is.”
Shelanski said that while antitrust remains an area of intense regulatory interest, the federal government’s antitrust enforcement agencies do not tend to change radically with administrations.
“[They are] largely run by seasoned and hardworking professionals,” Shelanski said. “Administration in, administration out, they tend to be left to do their work independently.”
Under the current administration, Shelanski does expect there to be “a somewhat more permissive environment, but nonetheless an environment where there will be serious investigations.”
Before joining Davis Polk for the first time, Shelanski co-directed the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where he had been a student. From 1999 to 2000, he was chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission and from 1998 to 1999, a senior economist to the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.
In the 1990s, Shelanski worked at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, a Washington, D.C.-based litigation boutique where current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was once a partner. Shelanski has his own ties to the high court, having once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year.