Richard Powers, the former acting head of DOJ’s antitrust division and a current deputy, has left the agency for a partner position at the law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.
Powers, who will work in the firm’s offices in New York, will advise companies on antitrust litigation and civil and criminal government investigations, according to the firm’s announcement Wednesday.
“It’s been a long career in public service for me, and I’m really proud of what we were able to do,” Powers said in an interview with Bloomberg Law. “It was tough leaving the department but I’m incredibly excited about joining the team at Fried Frank.”
The career prosecutor led the antitrust division’s criminal enforcement as deputy assistant attorney general beginning in 2018. He stepped in to serve as acting head of the division from February 2021 to November 2021, when the Senate confirmed Jonathan Kanter as its leader.
“The Division, the Department, and the American people owe Richard Powers a debt of gratitude,” Kanter said in a statement. “Richard not only served with distinction as a prosecutor and as our Deputy Assistant Attorney General, but led the Division through a lengthy transition. He is an outstanding lawyer and a superlative leader. The Division will miss him. I wish him success in his new endeavors.”
Powers’ departure comes as the antitrust division has faced a string of losses in the courtroom.
The division has mostly failed so far to reach convictions in a string of criminal cases alleging widespread price fixing in the broiler chicken industry. It has also come up short in a separate, novel bid, overseen by Powers, to prosecute so-called “no-poach” agreements between competing employers as criminal antitrust violations.
“It was an initiative we put a lot of time and energy into, and I expect it to continue,” Powers said. “I was really struck by how important they are, and how much those cases, that sort of conduct, can really impact the daily lives of those covered by the anticompetitive agreements.”
In recent speeches, Powers laid out his vision for a more aggressive, less conciliatory antitrust division, one more in line with the rest of the DOJ’s policies and practices. He worked closely with Kanter to advance that goal.
“This is something leadership has said publicly time and time again—and I have every reason to think it’ll continue—that they won’t hesitate to bring tough cases, close call cases,” Powers said. “I think they are very clear-eyed about what that means in terms of risk, but that’s something that I would want to see them continue doing.”
Powers first joined the division in 2009. He later spent several years prosecuting fraud and other financial crimes for DOJ’s criminal division before returning to antitrust as the head of criminal enforcement in 2018.
Powers’ departure follows a pair of recent high-ranking exits from the division. Kathy O’Neill, formerly the division’s highest-ranking career civil enforcer, joined Cooley in early September.
James Attridge, who was former counsel to Powers and Kanter, jumped to Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider around the same time.
Those departures come as the division pushes to grow its bench of experienced trial lawyers, officials previously told Bloomberg Law.