The Two Sides of the Kennedy Antitrust Policy

Date01 March 1992
DOI10.1177/0003603X9203700102
Published date01 March 1992
Subject MatterArticle
The Antitrust Bulletin/Spring 1992
The two sides
of
the Kennedy
antitrust policy
BY THEODORE P. KOYALEFF*
35
The Kennedy antitrust record is an anomaly. In some areas it fol-
lowed the paths blazed by its predecessor; yet, in others, it fal-
tered and important momentum was lost, preparing the way for
the disastrous Johnson period. The purpose
of
this piece is to
place in context the actions and lack thereof that transpired during
the
Thousand
Days.
It
will
only
study
the
operations
of
the
Antitrust Division
of
the Department
of
Justice because that arm
of
government is more responsive to changes in administration
than is the Federal Trade Commission, which is more bipartisan
and whose members are appointed for terms that usually overlap
presidential regimes.
To analyze the Kennedy record, it is necessary to study the
choice
of
top personnel, how the New Frontier antitrusters treated
*Assistant Dean,
School
of Law, Columbia University.
AUTIlOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions
of
this article were presented to meet-
ings
of
the Economic and Business History Society. the Western Economic
Association, and the Organization
of
American Historians. I would like to
thank Walter Adams, James Brock, Vincent P. Carosso, William Curran
III. Robert J. Michaels. Almarin Phillips, Albert J. Rosenthal. Richard
Rule. RaymondJ. Saulnier, Harold F. See and Paul Tiffany for their help-
ful comments and useful suggestions.
e1992 by
Federal
LegalPublkations. Inc.
36 : The antitrust bulletin
the holdover cases from the Eisenhower administration, especially
including the follow-through in the Electrical cases; additionally,
one must examine what new initiatives were taken. Furthermore,
the legislative record provides clues to the attitude of the adminis-
tration.
Camelot inherited an extremely active group
of
antitrusters
from the Eisenhower administration.
It
may appear contradictory
that an administration that is generally regarded as business ori-
ented would have been so active in the field
of
antitrust, but
antitrust can be viewed as actually probusiness. As Eisenhower's
first Attorney General, Herbert Brownell, explained it, while the
antitrust corpus does proscribe certain actions, it does not pre-
scribe any, thus it can be seen as protecting the businessman's
freedom to act.' Additionally, the laws, when invoked, usually
benefit more corporations than they hurt. With this mindset, under
the able stewardship of assistant attorneys general Stanley Barnes,
Victor Hansen, and Robert Bicks," during the Eisenhower years
new initiatives had been taken in the area
of
halting mergers. At
the same time, the Sherman Act phase of the corpus had not been
forgotten, as the great electrical conspiracies had been cracked
and prosecuted. And it appeared as if the Kennedy administration
intended that the Division continue on the same course when it
appointed Lee Loevinger to the helm. He had a background in the
field dating back to the pre-World War II years and a special
Herbert Brownell to author April 11, 1974. Also see, Justice Pol-
icy: Vigorous Action,
NATION'S
BUSINESS
32-33 (January, 1956); Address
to the 1956 Executive Conference on Administrative Policies and Prob-
lems (June 20, 1956). (A complete collection of the speeches of the attor-
neys general for the period 1952-61 is on file in the library at the School
of Law, Columbia University, New York City.)
2Although Bicks was never confirmed as assistant attorney general
in charge of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, he had
been in the administration from the earliest days. Assisting both Barnes
and Hansen, he was the natural choice to head the Division when Hansen
left
Politics and personality precluded his obtaining senatorial approval;
thus while running the Division, his title was acting assistant attorney
general.

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