By Zachary Tracer and Jef Feeley, Bloomberg News
One of the Trump administration’s contenders for a top antitrust job is a lobbyist who’s worked for health insurer Anthem Inc. on its proposed megamerger with Cigna Corp., a deal that regulators sued to block under former President Barack Obama last year.
Makan Delrahim became a registered lobbyist for Anthem starting in July 2015. According to documents filed with the Senate, he lobbied Congress on antitrust issues associated with the Anthem-Cigna transaction. He deregistered as a lobbyist for the insurer in December.
The new head of the antitrust division of the Justice Department could have sway over the $48 billion deal. Although the transaction was blocked by a federal judge this month on the grounds that it would harm competition in the market for health insurance plans sold to large companies, Anthem is appealing and has vowed to keep the merger alive. Under the ethics rules that President Donald Trump issued on Jan. 28, though, Delrahim would be required to recuse himself from any matters involving his former client for two years.
Cigna, meanwhile, sued its merger partner to end the transaction, and Anthem has countersued. An Anthem attorney involved in the Anthem-Cigna dispute told a Delaware judge on Feb. 15 that company officials were hoping that new lawyers brought into the Justice Department by the Trump administration would have a different view of the deal’s effect on competition.
The court ruling blocking the merger doesn’t kill the deal and the change in the government may provide “a path forward,” Anthem said in the suit.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, while the White House didn’t return a call seeking comment. Jill Becher, an Anthem spokeswoman, said Delrahim hasn’t been involved in any merger related activity since deregistering as a lobbyist, without providing further details.
Delrahim is among those considered for the antitrust job, along with Joshua Wright, a conservative law professor who headed Trump’s transition team for the Federal Trade Commission, Bloomberg reported last month. International Business Times reported on Delrahim’s ties to Anthem Wednesday. He declined to comment.
Delrahim is currently deputy counsel to Trump at the White House, according to his profile on LinkedIn. He’s previously worked on antitrust issues at the Justice Department, and was most recently a lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP.
--With assistance from Bill Allison, David McLaughlin, Andrew M Harris and Shannon Pettypiece.