Obama Antitrust Regulators’ Priorities Are Only Slightly Different Than Predecessors’

Steven C. Sunshine, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, who provides merger antitrust advice to companies, says the U.S. Department of Justice’s trial victory last year, which resulted in an injunction barring H&R Block Inc.’s acquisition of 2SS Holdings Inc., is the most important merger antitrust development under the Obama administration. Sunshine, who headed merger enforcement at DOJ from 1994 to 1995, represented Sprint Nextel Corp. on its antitrust challenge to AT&T Inc.’s $39 billion takeover of Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile USA, which was called off last year after the Justice Department sued to block it. He’s also advising Anheuser-Busch InBev NV on its $20.1 billion purchase of the Grupo Modelo SAB de CV stake it doesn’t already own. Sunshine spoke with Will Robinson.

Q: This is a presidential election year in the U.S. How much does a change in administrations affect antitrust review in practice?

A: It’s easy to oversell the amount of the effect. Cartel or criminal enforcement will remain strong whoever is in the office. The same set of merger guidelines, more or less, has been in effect since 1982. Having said that, on the margin, the Democratic administration has tended to more aggressively apply the facts to what I think are mainstream principles.

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