A lawyer who has spent time as a federal regulator and is now working on behalf of corporate America could hold the key to whether the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger goes through. Fortune reports that Christine Varney has been hired to help convince the government to approve the deal.
Varney, a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, has spent time both at the Federal Trade Commission and at the Department of Justice, and as of six years ago, was the government’s top “antitrust cop,” Fortune notes.
She has caught the attention of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who told the publication: “Americans have had it with regulators like Varney, who talk a good game about holding the bad guys accountable while counting down the days until they can collect a fat paycheck from the corporations they were supposed to regulate. The revolving door is out of control. If we want to hold corporate lawbreakers accountable, we can’t ask their friends to do it.”
But a number of political leaders have expressed opposition to the merger. “Donald Trump has already come out against the deal,” Fortune reports. “Clinton has said that if she is made president, it’s a deal that she would expect her administration to look at closely. Bernie Sanders has said Washington should ‘kill’ the deal because it will lead to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.”
But Varney, who reportedly heads a staff of 800 lawyers with an annual budget of $160 million, could tip the balance the other way.
“Sources close to the AT&T-Time Warner deal say that Varney is steadfast that the telecom and media merger will get approved,” Fortune reports. “And they bristle at the idea that Varney was hired just because she used to work in government. Cravath has long worked with Time Warner, so it’s not surprising they would hire the firm to work on this deal as well, they say.”