And now for our “Narcissistic State Announcement of the Week“:
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz will be joined by Bureau of Competition Director Richard Feinstein at FTC Headquarters on Wednesday, August 4, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. ET to detail the terms of the Commission’s order settling charges that Intel Corporation used anticompetitive tactics that stifled innovation and harmed consumers in the market for computer microprocessors, graphics processing units, and chipsets. The FTC’s complaint, filed in December 2009, charged Intel with waging a systematic campaign to shut out rivals’ competing microchips by cutting off their access to the marketplace, and harming consumers.
So if I understand this correctly, two men who have devoted their lives to aggressing against innocent people will stand before a (worshipful) Washington press corps and explain why a company that has produced useful and innovative products for over forty years has “harmed consumers.” Moreover, the aggressors will explain how their violent behavior will produce superior products versus the peaceful coordination of the marketplace. And to top it off, the aggressors will explain why they and they alone possess a superior understanding of the marketplace—not Intel or its customers—that eliminates the need for any outside check on their violent behavior. Please tell me if I am missing something here.
UPDATE: George Mason University Professor Joshua Wright deems it “somewhat odd” for the FTC to call a press conference to discuss a consent order. Odd, perhaps, but not surprising. Jon Leibowitz has done a good job since taking over as chairman of raising his personal public profile. As I have said before, Leibowitz won the bureaucratic lottery. He spent most of his career as a “compliant aide and fawning courtier” to Senate Democratic leaders—to borrow the words of Leibowitz’s wife—and now he is in a position where every American company must bow before him. Heck, in that position I might call a press conference and take a curtain call myself.
But to address a more important question—why did Intel give up without a fight—I suspect the company sealed its fate last year when it hired A. Doglas Melamed as general counsel. I initially thought this was a good sign. Melamed successfully represented Rambus in defeating the FTC over the course of seven years of litigation. But that was when Melamed was outside counsel. Rambus had a strong general counsel, John Danforth, who oversaw the company’s overall litigation strategy—and he was not a career antitrust lawyer beholden to the FTC. Melamed is a career antitrust guy who spent five years at the DOJ’s Antitrust Division—even serving as acting chief—during the height of the Microsoft litigation. It was unreasonable to expect such a man to wage a principled campaign against the FTC. Intel should have known better.