Remarks of Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim
Good afternoon everyone. It is a great honor for me to be surrounded by such a crowd full of friends, colleagues, and mentors. You all have done so much for the Department of Justice, the Antitrust Division, and the field of competition law. To all of you here: thank you for everything that you have done to promote the mission of the Division to protect competition and consumers. I am humbled to follow in your footsteps, and I hope to leave the Division as an even better place than I found it.
Today we are honoring one of the finest and most decorated current leaders in our field, by announcing the establishment of the James F. Rill Fellowship. The Fellowship is designed to provide elite candidates of the Honors Program with a special opportunity to participate in antitrust enforcement actions and in the development and implementation of antitrust policy. Each Rill Fellow will begin with a one-year assignment in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, after which the Fellow can chose two additional six-month assignments in our various sections. Rill Fellows will learn nearly every aspect of our work here at the Division, providing them a launch pad for what I hope will become a long and successful career in the field of antitrust law.
You’ll hear more from me and others about what a special privilege it is to honor Jim with a fellowship in his name, but before I do, I wanted to pause and remember Jim’s wonderful wife Betsy, who passed away very recently. Even though she’s not with us today, a week before she passed away, with Jim’s blessing, we conveyed my intention, if confirmed by the Senate, to establish this fellowship to honor Jim’s lifetime of work, which without Betsy’s steadfast support would not have been possible. She could not have been more proud and overjoyed by this news. And she remains in our thoughts and prayers.
I’d like to say a few words about what the establishment of the James F. Rill Fellowship means to the Antitrust Division in particular. In many ways, the Fellowship is a testament to his public service, and how he influenced the field of antitrust law.
Jim was confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division in 1989. Even before then, he was already considered one of the greats of the antitrust bar, and his time at the Division made him a legend. The list of Jim’s accomplishments as AAG alone is daunting—issuing the 1992 Horizontal Merger Guidelines, the first version to be issued jointly with the FTC; negotiating the landmark U.S./EU Positive Comity Agreement, raising corporate fines for Sherman Act violations from $1 million to $10 million—just to name a few.
But one of Jim’s most important contributions to the Division, and what truly made him a legend, is perhaps the hardest to capture – that is, Jim’s crucial role in fostering a bipartisan consensus for how the government should enforce the antitrust laws. The Division under Jim enforced the antitrust laws vigorously to preserve the free market, keeping the interests of competition, markets, and consumers first and foremost. Jim demonstrated that Chicago-school antitrust thought, focused on consumer welfare, goes hand-in-hand with a robust enforcement program. This enforcement philosophy has had staying power across administrations, and has influenced a generation of antitrust practitioners across the political spectrum. Indeed, the fact that we’re joined today by senior Department leadership from both Republican and Democratic administrations is a testament to Jim’s success, in keeping the enforcement of the antitrust laws a nonpartisan endeavor.
In reflecting on Jim’s legend, it’s worth remembering that he served as AAG at a pivotal time in our history—when today’s technology-based economy was only a growing glimmer on the horizon. At that time, “Amazon” was in South America, and “Facebook” was something you bought upon graduation or flipped through in your dorm room. Today, of course, those words carry an additional, and very different, meaning. Technology is now ubiquitous. “Big data” is a source of great debate at home and abroad. And as AAG, Jim lit a fire within the Division that still burns today, giving us the right analytical framework and tools we need to confront challenges posed by the digital economy and new ways of doing business.
Jim’s work on transforming modern antitrust law did not end when he re-joined private practice—far from it. As Jim’s successors carried his mantle, Jim set his sights abroad and greatly expanded the international work he pursued with the Division. By this time, the Cold War was coming to an end and a new era of market liberalization was commencing. Jim understood that, just as the United States could serve as a beacon of freedom abroad, this country’s decades of experience in applying the antitrust laws could be essential to helping other countries foster their own enforcement regimes to the benefit of those economies as well as U.S. businesses and workers. Indeed, we have learned the hard way that misguided application of antitrust law can have negative consequences for innovation. Those mistakes at home helped us refine a regime that we could export abroad. No one was better equipped than Jim to serve as one of our chief ambassadors.
Attorney General Janet Reno and Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein appointed Jim as co-chair of the Department’s International Competition Policy Advisory Committee in 1997, the goal of which was to advise the Department regarding international antitrust issues in the 21st century. Jim, along with his colleagues, had the vision to recommend the creation of what is now the International Competition Network (the ICN, as we refer to it today), in which competition officials from around the world could regularly meet and engage on practical issues we all face. The ICN now includes over 130 agency members, and when I served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for international in the early 2000s, I witnessed the benefits it offered firsthand. Jim has helped shape a number of other crucial global antitrust policymaking institutions and advisory groups, including the Business and Industrial Advisory Committee to the OECD, the WTO, and the International Chamber of Commerce. Without his leadership, it is hard to imagine global competition policy evolving in the right direction, to favor growth and innovation.
Finally, the Rill Fellowship will stand as the Division’s commitment to the mentorship of young attorneys in the complex field and practice of antitrust law. Not all of us dreamed of being an antitrust lawyer when we were kids. In fact, if my eight year old told me he wanted to be an antitrust lawyer when he grew up, I’d worry there’s something wrong with him. All of us have a story of why we gravitated to the field of antitrust, or why we stayed in this field. For many of us, Jim Rill is part of that story. I have always looked up to Jim. As a chair of the ABA Antitrust Section and dedicated member of the Section over the course of several decades, Jim guided scores of young attorneys into prominent members of the bar. Those new leaders are doing the same, following Jim’s model.
So, Jim, thank you for all you’ve done. The future Rill Fellows should be proud to follow your lead.