Expect to see more CEOs (like Bill Gates here) having to answer monopolization charges.

Blawgletter has made no secret of our disappointment with antitrust law enforcement over the last eight years.  (Lookie here and here, for example.)  We've also guessed that an Obama administration would get tougher on monopolists and cartels.

Today, the rumor mill suggests that our speculation at least got the general direction of antitrust policy right.

The latest has Christine Varney as the probable new head of the Antitrust Division, a wing of the U.S. Department of Justice.

A Bloomberg report describes her as a "deal broker" who aggressively enforced antitrust law during a stint as a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission in the Clinton administration.

Ms. Varney apparently hasn't litigated many (if any) antitrust cases.  A search on the CM-ECF site for her hometown federal court, the District of the District of Columbia, disclosed no cases of any kind in which she appeared as counsel.  So, she likely has far more experience in policy-making and advisory roles than in the litigation context.

Will that background mean an aversion to heading to court?  We hope not — and note with approval Ms. Varney's role, as counsel for Netscape, in encouraging the Department of Justice to prosecute Microsoft for monopolization of the Internet browser market.  PBS interview on Feb. 26, 1999, here.  She also, according to Bloomberg, "often joined 3-2 majorities [while an FTC commissioner] to press antitrust and consumer-protection complaints against companies."

UPDATE:  Reuters confirms the nomination of Ms. Varney as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division.

We reproduce the text of Ms Varney's current bio on the website of Hogan & Hartson – Chief Justice John Roberts's old firm – for your information:

Christine Varney rejoined Hogan & Hartson in 1997, after five years in government service, to head the firm's Internet practice group. This practice provides full service assistance to companies doing business globally, including providing advice on antitrust, privacy, business planning and corporate governance, intellectual property, and general liability issues. Christine has provided antitrust, competition policy, and regulatory advice to a variety of companies, including eBay, Fox Interactive Media/MySpace, Orbitz Worldwide, Inc., DoubleClick, Ernst & Young, EMI, Intelius,, American Hospital Association, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, Dow Jones & Company, AOL, Synopsys, Compaq Computer, Gateway, Netscape, The Liberty Alliance, and Real Networks.

In addition, Christine has been instrumental in the founding of several industry self-regulation associations, including the Network Advertising Initiative and Online Privacy Alliance, working to create Internet best practices policies. She has received extensive media attention for the caliber of her work, including recognition in Chambers USA 2007, where she is considered “widely respected,” particularly on Internet and privacy issues.

During her U.S. government tenure, Christine served as a Federal Trade Commissioner from 1994 to 1997. At the Federal Trade Commission, she was a leading official on a wide variety of Internet issues. She also pioneered the application of innovation market theory analysis to transactions in both electronic high technology and biotechnology. She led the government's effort to examine privacy issues in the information age, resulting in congressional and agency hearings, proposed industry standards, and increased government enforcement of laws protecting privacy.

Prior to becoming a Federal Trade Commissioner, Christine was an Assistant to the President and Secretary to the Cabinet. She was the primary point of contact for the 20-member Cabinet. She was responsible for the overall coordination of several major issues and initiatives between the White House and various agencies.

Before joining the Clinton Administration, Christine practiced law with Hogan & Hartson. In addition, she served as Chief Counsel to the Clinton/Gore Campaign, General Counsel to the 1992 Presidential Inaugural Committee, and General Counsel to the Democratic National Committee from 1989 to 1992.

Christine lectures extensively, both in the United States and abroad, on various legal issues in American politics. She is also involved in an ongoing international dialogue on comparative political processes and competition policy with foreign government officials through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). She regularly contributes to a variety of publications, including Newsweek, Antitrust Magazine, and Wired.

Representative Experience
Provided antitrust, regulatory, competition policy, and consumer protection advice to multinational content, technology, and commerce businesses, including eBay, DoubleClick, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, Dow Jones & Company, AOL, Synopsys, Compaq Computer, Gateway, Netscape, and Real Networks.
Provided antitrust and data protection advice to the Liberty Alliance, a consortium of more than 160 technology and consumer-facing organizations formed in September 2001 to establish an open standard for federated network identity.
Provided antitrust and data protection advice to the Online Privacy Alliance, a nonprofit organization of more than 30 global corporations and associations that have come together to introduce and promote business-wide actions that create an environment of trust and foster the protection of individuals' privacy online.
Provided antitrust and data protection advice to the Network Advertising Initiative, a group of network advertising companies that developed self-regulatory principles to govern their information collection practices.

Feed-icon-14x14  Shockingly, our feed has no aversion to heading to court.

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Photo of Barry Barnett Barry Barnett

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck…

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck Redden).

Barnett is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and Lawdragon has named him one of the top 500 lawyers in the United States three years in a row. Best Lawyers in America has honored him as “Lawyer of the Year” for Bet-the-Company Litigation (2019 and 2017) and Patent Litigation (2020) in Houston. Based in Texas and New York, Barnett has tried complex business disputes across the United States.

Barnett’s background, training, and experience make him indispensable to his clients. The small-town son of a Texas roughneck and grandson of a Texas sharecropper, Barnett “developed an unusual common sense about people, their motivations, and their dilemmas,” according to former client Michael Lewis.

Barnett has been historically recognized for his effectiveness and judgment. His peers chose him, for example, to the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Law Institute. His decades of trial and appellate work representing both plaintiffs and defendants have made him a master strategist and nimble tactician in complex disputes.

Barnett focuses on enforcement of antitrust laws, the “Magna Carta of free enterprise,” in Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s memorable phrase. “Barry is one of the nation’s outstanding antitrust lawyers,” according to Joseph Goldberg, a member of the Private Antitrust Enforcement Hall of Fame. Named among Texas’s top ten antitrust lawyers of 2023, Business Today calls Barnett a “trailblazer” among the “distinguished legal minds” who “dedicate their skill and expertise to the maintenance of healthy competition in various sectors” of the Lone Star State’s booming economy. Barnett is also adept in energy and intellectual property matters and has battled for clients against a Who’s Who list of corporate behemoths, including Abbott Labs, Alcoa, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Broadcom, Comcast, Dow, JPMorgan Chase, Samsung, and Visa.

Barnett commands a courtroom with calm and credibility and “is the perfect lawyer for bet the company litigation,” said Scott Regan, General Counsel of former client Whiting Petroleum. His performance before the Supreme Court in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend prompted the Court to withdraw the question on which it had granted review. The judge in a trial involving mobile phone technology called Barnett “one of the best” and that his opening statement the finest he had ever seen. Another trial judge told Barnett minutes after a jury returned a favorable verdict against the county’s biggest employer that he was one of the two best trial lawyers he’d ever come across—adding that the other one was dead.

A versatile trial lawyer, Barnett knows how to handle a case all the way from strategic pre-suit planning to affirmance on appeal. He’s tried cases to verdict and then briefed and argued them when they went before appellate courts, including the Second, Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and (in the case of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend) the Supreme Court of the United States.

Barnett is a sought-after public speaker, often serving on panels and talking about topics like the trials of antitrust class actions and techniques for streamlining complex litigation. He also comments on trends in commercial litigation and the implications of major rulings for outlets such as NPR, Reuters, Law360, Corporate Counsel, and The Dallas Morning News. He’s even appeared in a Frontline program about underfunding of state pensions, authored chapters on “Fee Arrangements” and “Techniques for Expediting and Streamlining Litigation” (the latter with Steve Susman) in the ABA’s definitive treatise on Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts, 5th, and commented on How Antitrust Enforcers Might Think Like Plaintiffs’ Lawyers.

Clients and other hard graders have praised Barnett for his courtroom skills and legal acumen.

A client in a $100 million oil and gas case, which Barnett’s team won at trial and held on appeal, said Barnett and his team “presented a rare combination of strong legal intellect, common sense about right and wrong, and credibility in the courtroom.” David McCombs at Haynes and Boone said Barnett “has a natural presence that goes over well with juries and judges.”

Even former adversaries give Barnett high marks. Lead opposing counsel in a decade-long antitrust slugfest said “Barry is a highly skilled advocate. He understands what really matters in telling a narrative and does so in a very compelling manner.”

Barnett relishes opportunities to collaborate with all kinds of people. At the Center for American and International Law (CAIL), founded by a former prosecutor at Nuremberg in 1947 and headquartered in the Dallas area, he has served on the Executive Committee, co-chaired the committee that produced CAIL’s first-ever strategic plan, supported CAIL’s Institute for Law Enforcement Administration and other development efforts, and proposed formation of a new Institute for Social Justice Law. CAIL’s former President David Beck said “Barry is extremely bright” and is “very well prepared in every lawsuit or professional task he undertakes.”

Barnett is also a Trustee of the New-York Historical Society, a Sterling Fellow at Yale, a member of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Governing Board, a winner of the Class Award for his work on behalf of his college class, and a proud contributor to the Yellow Ribbon Program at Harvard Law. Barnett’s pro bono work includes leading the trial team representing people who are at greatest risk of severe illness and death as a result of being exposed to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 while being detained in the Dallas County jail—work for which he received the NGAN Legal Advocacy Fund RBG Award.

At Susman Godfrey, Barnett has served on the firm’s Executive Committee, Employment Committee, and ad hoc committees on partner compensation, succession of leadership, and revision of the firm’s partnership agreement. He also twice chaired the Practice Development Committee.

Barnett understands that clients face many pressures. Managing the stress is important, especially in matters that take years to resolve. He encourages clients to call him whenever they have a question or concern and to keep the inevitable ups and downs in perspective. He wants them to know that he will do his level best to help them achieve their goals. He also strives to foster trust and to make working with him a pleasure.

Cyrus “Skip” Marter, the General Counsel of Bonanza Creek in Denver and a former Susman Godfrey partner and client, said Barnett is “excellent about communicating with clients in a full and honest manner” and can “negotiate for his clients from a position of strength, because he is not afraid to take a case through a full trial on the merits.” Stacey Doré, the President of Hunt Utility Services and a former client, said that Barnett is “an excellent trial lawyer and the person you want to hire for your bet-the-company cases. He is client focused, responsive, and uniquely savvy about trial and settlement strategy.” A New York colleague said, “Barry is a joy to work with as co-counsel. He tackles complex procedural and factual hurdles capably, efficiently, and without drama.”

Barnett’s wide-ranging experience and calm, down-to-earth approach enable him to connect with clients, judges, jurors, witnesses, and even opposing counsel. He grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas. He co-captained his high school varsity football team as an All-East Texas middle linebacker while also serving as the Editor of Key Club’s Texas-Oklahoma District, won the Best Typist award, took the History Team to glory, and sang in the East Texas All Region Choir. As Dan Kelly of client Vistra Corp. put it, Barnett is “a great person to be around.”

Barnett is steady and loyal. He has practiced at Susman Godfrey his entire career. He and his wife Nancy live in Dallas and enjoy spending time in Houston and New York. Their daughter works for H-E-B in Houston, and their son is a Haynes and Boone transactions lawyer in Dallas.

As a member of Ivy League championship football teams in his junior and senior years at Yale and a parent of two Yalies, Barnett has no trouble choosing sides for “The Game” in November. And he knows how important fighting all the way to the end is. On his last play from scrimmage, in the waning minutes of The Game on Nov. 22, 1980, he recovered a Crimson fumble.

Yale won, 14-0.