June 11, 2019

Warren Calls on Assistant Attorney General Delrahim to Recuse Himself from DOJ Antitrust Probes of Google & Apple

Delrahim's Prior Lobbying Work for Giant Tech Companies Poses Conflict of Interest Concerns

Letter to AAG Delrahim (PDF) | Letter to DOJ Ethics Official (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent letters to Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim and Department of Justice (DOJ) ethics officials regarding Delrahim's prior lobbying work for Google and Apple and urging him to recuse himself from any Department matters involving the two companies. The senator's letters follow a recent announcement that DOJ will have jurisdiction over antitrust investigations into the giant tech companies.

While the DOJ and Federal Trade Commission share authority to enforce federal antitrust laws, reports emerged on May 31st that the two agencies had come to an agreement that the DOJ would have jurisdiction over potential anticompetitive conduct by Google, and that the agency was "preparing to open an antitrust investigation" into the company. Further reports early last week indicated that the DOJ will also have jurisdiction over Apple. As the head of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, Mr. Delrahim is in a position to supervise these investigations.

In her letters, Senator Warren raised concerns about Mr. Delrahim's supervision of these investigations given his previous work as a lobbyist for Google and Apple. In 2007, Google paid Mr. Delrahim to lobby federal antitrust officials on behalf of the company's proposed acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick Inc., a $3.1 billion merger that the government eventually approved. Mr. Delrahim reported an estimated $100,000 in income from Google in 2007. In both 2006 and 2007, Mr. Delrahim was hired by Apple to lobby the federal government on its behalf on patent reform issues; his work as a corporate lobbyist continued into 2016 with clients that included Anthem, Pfizer, Qualcomm, and Caesars.

"Your past work as a lobbyist for two of the largest and most scrutinized tech companies in the world creates the appearance of a conflict of interest," wrote Senator Warren in her letter to the Assistant Attorney General. "As the head of the antitrust division at the DOJ, you should not be supervising investigations into former clients who paid you tens of thousands of dollars to lobby the federal government."

Citing federal ethics law requiring individuals to recuse themselves from any "particular matter involving specific parties" if "the circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question his impartiality in the matter," Senator Warren called on Mr. Delrahim to recuse himself from the DOJ's reported investigations into Google and Apple.

"Given your extensive and lucrative previous work lobbying the federal government on behalf of Google and Apple...any reasonable person would surely question your impartiality in antitrust matters involving Google," the senator continued. "American consumers and markets deserve the confidence that the DOJ will conduct any antitrust investigation into Google or Apple with integrity, impartiality, and with the best interest of competitive markets and consumers in mind."

Senator Warren requested that the DOJ's designated agency ethics official provide information on how the Department is addressing Mr. Delrahim's conflicts, as well as a copy of Mr. Delrahim's ethics agreements, by June 14, 2019.  She also asked Mr. Delrahim to respond by the same date with information on whether he is considering recusal and who he is consulting about that decision.

In August 2018, Senator Warren unveiled the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, a comprehensive bill that, among other ambitious measures, would prohibit former corporate lobbyists, such as Mr. Delrahim, from taking government jobs for six years after lobbying.