Congratulations to Bill Kovacic:

Congratulations to my friend and former FTC colleague Bill Kovacic (and Orin's current colleague) for being nominated as a Commissioner to the FTC to replace Orson Swindle, who completes his period of distinguished service to the Commission. Bill was General Counsel of the FTC during my time as Director of the Office of Policy Planning. Not only does Bill have an amazing knowledge of antitrust and consumer protecition law, he is one of the truly finest people I have ever met and worked with. He also has an immense appreciation for the history and capabilities of the FTC. It is a well-deserved honor for Bill and even more, a great honor for the country. I think is a testament to the quality of the leadership of the FTC over the past dozen years (Pitofsky, Muris, Majoras) that they have also been able to draw in such able non-Chair Commissioners as well (including minority-party Commissioners, such as Liebowitz and Harbour).

An interesting question is what happens now with the FTC antitrust practice at Jones, Day, one of the leading antitrust firms in town. Kovacic's wife is a partner at Jones, Day, and Chair Debbie Majoras is a former Jones, Day partner. Depending on the recusal policies adopted, this could conceivably recuse two of the three Republican members of the Commission for mergers involving Jones, Day. Of course, this will leave unaffected Jones, Day's DOJ practice.

As for outgoing Commissioner Swindle, I am not aware of his plans after leaving the FTC. But working with Commissioner Swindle was one of the great privileges of my time at the Commission. I just can't say enough about how much I admire Commissioner Swindle. He is a true American hero and a remarkable voice of common sense and sound judgement, not to mention an incredibly friendly and honorable man. I will confess to feeling a bit of awe every time I met with him in his office, surrounded by the memorabilia of his time in the service and Vietnam. An amazing man with an amazing life story.

Plus, he was one of the few fellow Atlanta Braves fans in a Commission seemingly dominated by Yankess fans (hiss). It is unclear what impact Kovacic's appointment will have on the balance of baseball loyalties at the FTC. Perhaps this issue will come out in the confirmation hearings.

Nicholas Provenzo (mail) (www):
The praise Professor Zywicki loads upon Bill Kovacic (and rest of the antitrust arm of the FTC) is undeserved. During the Microsoft antitrust prosecution, Robert Tracinski, former scholar for the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism, debated Kovacic on the merits of antitrust law at George Washington University. When challenged by Tracinski on fundamentals, Kovacic utterly crumbled. Kovacic could not articulate why a successful businessman, as a mater of right, owes a less successful businessman market share beyond that the successful businessman has it and the other doesn't, and that just ain't right.

A businessman has a right to leverage his success in the market no differently than Michael Jordan had a right to leverage his ability into NBA championships. So I say this to Professor Zywicki: there is no just argument for antitrust. That conservatives continue to healed it as some kind of moral triumph reveals nothing less then the appalling bankruptcy in their defense of free markets.
8.4.2005 12:15pm
Provenzo -

1. Your statement is a strawman. If the original question was also a strawman, no one should care whether Kovacic could answer.
2. Get a smaller tar brush. The majority of the load of praise is for Swindle. He's an amazing guy, even if you disagree with everything he did at the FTC (and I'm no fan of his position on SPAM). Yes, I've seen the memorabilia to which TZ.
8.4.2005 12:54pm
Doug H (mail):
Soon after he moved from George Mason to GW, I was lucky enough to have Kovacic for antitrust. From that experience I can say that while he follows the George Mason orthodoxy on the economics of antitrust, he is sincere, highly competent, and open to debate.

Nicholas is onto something regarding weakness on the (economic) fundamentals. However, I think this weakness is not Kovacic's, but rather it is inherent in anyone defending the flawed quasi-economic logic underlying the last two decades of neoconservative antitrust policy who is at the same time academically honest enough not to resort to smoke and mirros.
8.4.2005 3:00pm
Jeff Olsen:
>He is a true American hero and a remarkable voice of common sense and sound judgment.

Yeah, for doing things like protecting citizens from the "super-premium ice cream" cartel. Common sense and sound judgment my rear quarter.
8.4.2005 8:19pm
I had Kovacic for Antitrust at GW as well, and his teaching style, personality, and command of the subject matter were all outstanding, although his textbook left something to be desired in the field of clarity.

Provenzo - the question advanced by Tracinski is both conclusory and vague in that it assumes a larger market share is the sole criteria in antitrust action to reapportion the market and then fails to disclose what percentage of market share (whatever share a successful business holds over an unseccessful one?) implicates anticompetitive behavior.

A better inquiry to Kovacic would have been "why does market share matter?" or "what percentages of market share trigger Sherman Act violations?" (see FTC merger handbook, probably) or "should the Supreme Court start hearing antitrust cases again?"
8.5.2005 12:03pm