William Baer
William Baer (Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi)

Top Justice Department antitrust lawyer Bill Baer is returning to Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, where he led the antitrust practice for several years, the firm said Wednesday.

Baer was chief of the antitrust division at Justice from 2013 to 2016 and was the agency’s last acting associate attorney general under President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“Arnold & Porter—there’s always been a special place in my heart,” he said. “There’s just no better or talented group of antitrust lawyers than I’ve ever encountered.”

Baer left the Justice Department on Jan. 19, the day before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. A runner and tennis player, he needed both of his knees replaced but delayed the procedure for four years. He had surgery in March and took more than a month to recover.

He starts back at the firm’s Washington office on June 1.

This is Baer’s third round at Arnold & Porter. He worked at the firm as an associate and partner beginning in 1980, until he became director of the Bureau of Competition at the Federal Trade Commission in 1995. He returned to Arnold & Porter as a partner in 2000, taking leadership of the antitrust group.

Baer disclosed to the federal government that he earned $2.8 million from the firm In 2011 and for the first three months of 2012, plus another $1 million to $2 million in delayed profit distribution. (At the time, he also disclosed to the government he would receive an annual lump-sum retirement payment for 11 years after his 2013 departure, plus a retirement payment of $100 a month for life, per the firm’s partnership agreement.)

Baer won’t lead the antitrust practice when he returns. At 66, he’s one year older than Arnold & Porter’s age cutoff for firm leaders to step down from those posts.

He said he plans not only to advise clients on antitrust issues, but also to serve as a crisis management counsel. He’s particularly interested in how competition enforcement might be changing, especially regarding how Europe handles cartels following the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.

“I love people. I love problem solving. The more difficult the challenge, the more interesting it is,” he said.

In the U.S., the current DOJ’s approach to antitrust could look much different than it did under the Obama administration, but the exact nature of the developing antitrust environment is still unclear. Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer has several past and current clients that face or have faced antitrust scrutiny, including General Electric, Monsanto, AT&T and Anthem Inc., the health insurance company. Monsanto is currently attempting to merge with Bayer, while AT&T is attempting to acquire Time Warner. Arnold & Porter said it has represented Anthem since 2015 in its attempt to acquire Cigna Corp., though the deal has been in court since Cigna attempted to pull out.

Baer will be barred from advising on some of those deals because of his role in government.

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