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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Sherman Act Award Ceremony


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Christine [Varney]. I appreciate your kind words and, more importantly, your outstanding leadership of the Antitrust Division. Your work strengthens the protections, and the great progress, that we’ve gathered today to celebrate.

It’s an honor to be with you all and to join Christine in welcoming so many distinguished guests. I’m especially pleased that Justice [Stephen] Breyer has taken the time to join us, and to return to his roots. As many of you know, Justice Breyer began his remarkable career as an antitrust attorney here at the Department of Justice. In the years since, and throughout his service on the Supreme Court, he has proved to be one of our nation’s great champions of sound economic policy and strong consumer protection.

Justice Breyer, it is our great privilege to welcome you back to the Department today, as we mark the 120th anniversary of one of our nation’s most important and enduring laws, the Sherman Antitrust Act. And it is fitting that we also recognize today the achievements of one of the Sherman Act’s most ardent and effective defenders, Robert Pitofsky.

Professor Pitofsky’s contributions to the field of antitrust law are not merely distinguished. They are legendary. In academia, in private practice, and -- most especially -- through distinguished public service, Professor Pitofsky has worked tirelessly to promote fairness in our markets and to protect American consumers from anticompetitive conduct.

In many ways, his career is a reflection of the same commitment that inspired John Sherman’s landmark effort, more than a century ago, to ensure economic freedom, growth, and opportunity.

One hundred and twenty years ago, Senator Sherman stood before his colleagues in Congress, determined to free the American economy from the grip of anti-competitive practices and entities. "Monopolies," he declared, are "inconsistent with our form of government. . . . If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life. If we would not submit to an emperor, we should not submit to an autocrat of trade . . . ."

Today, the Antitrust Division of this Department of Justice continues to live up to Senator Sherman's exhortation. Now more than ever, we are committed to smart, fair, and aggressive antitrust enforcement across all sectors of our economy.

Few understand or appreciate the importance of this work better than today’s awardee. Throughout his storied career, Robert Pitofsky has been described as an antitrust powerhouse, a lion among lawyers, and a living legend in antitrust law.

During his tenure as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, which is often described as the "Pitofsky era," Professor Pitofsky transformed the Commission. He refocused its vision, modernized its work, and launched highly successful initiatives to combat fraud and to improve the enforcement of our antitrust laws.

As a scholar, Professor Pitofsky has taught generations of law students the power and limits of American antitrust law -- both at Georgetown's law school and through his widely acclaimed text books.

And as an antitrust lawyer, he has remained steadfast in his commitment, not to any one ideology, but to a basic overriding principle – established into law 120 years ago – of a free but fair American marketplace.

In all of this work, the Justice Department is – and, for decades, has been – proud to call Professor Pitofsky a partner. And the American people have been privileged to have him as an ally and advocate – a leader whose mission is, as he described it in his farewell address to the FTC, to "challenge the most powerful companies in the world, when those companies have done wrong, in the name of the less powerful."

On behalf of the Department of Justice, it’s my pleasure to present Robert Pitofsky with this year’s Sherman Act Award. Your example and your extraordinary service are an inspiration to us all.

Thank you, and congratulations.

Updated August 20, 2015