Tag Archives: competition

Jackson List: DOJ Antitrust Division Jackson-Nash Address, Sept. 20, 2018

Earlier this year, the Antitrust Division in the United States Department of Justice established the Jackson-Nash Address.

According to Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, the goal of this lecture series is “to recognize the contributions of former Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson and Nobel Laureate economist John Nash, and to honor the speaker, recognizing and celebrating the role of economics in the mission of the [Antitrust] Division.”

Robert H. Jackson headed the Antitrust Division during 1937.  As the Division explained when it announced this new lecture series, Jackson’s leadership set the stage for the expanded role of economics in antitrust, replacing vague legal standards with the “protection of competition” as the goal of antitrust law.  And Dr. John Nash’s research provides Antitrust Division economists with analytic tools necessary to protect competition.  In particular, Division economists commonly rely on Nash’s strategic theory of games and his axiomatic bargaining model to guide investigations and to help evaluate the effects of mergers, monopolization, and collusion.

On February 28, 2018, Dr. Alvin E. Roth, the McCaw Professor of Economics at Stanford University, delivered the inaugural Jackson-Nash lecture.  Professor Roth is the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.

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I am pleased to announce here that the second Jackson-Nash program, open to the public, will occur on Thursday, September 20, 2018, at 3:00 p.m. in the Great Hall at the U.S. Department of Justice, The Robert F. Kennedy Building, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.  The program will consist of:

  • Introductory remarks by Department of Justice leadership; 
  • my historical lecture, Competition: Robert H. Jackson as Assistant Attorney General—Antitrust (January 21, 1937–March 5, 1938); and
  • an address by Dr. George A. Akerlof, University Professor at Georgetown University.  Dr. Akerlof is the 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics for analyses of markets with asymmetric information (including his well-known article “The Market for ‘Lemons’: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism” (1970).)

A reception in the Great Hall will follow the program.

Because space is limited, anyone who is interested to attend should RSVP to ATR.AAGRSVP@USDOJ.GOVGuests should enter Main Justice at the 10th Street and Constitution Avenue entrance.

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And some Jackson history—

Robert H. Jackson became Assistant Attorney General heading the Antitrust Division at the start of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second term in office.  Jackson already was an Assistant Attorney General of the United States—Roosevelt had nominated him to that office and the Senate had confirmed him a year earlier, and throughout 1936 AAG Jackson headed DOJ’s Tax Division.  In January 1937, U.S. Attorney General Homer S. Cummings announced a series of personnel moves in the Department, including Jackson’s transfer to head the Antitrust Division.  (Its leader was leaving government to become a law professor.)

By January 1937, Jackson had become a nationally prominent young New Dealer.  His transfer within DOJ from Tax to Antitrust thus was news.  And that triggered a wave of congratulatory messages to him.

One telegram that was particularly meaningful to Jackson came from a friend who was, at that time, a Wall Street lawyer.  “Let me congratulate you on your opportunity for doing a fine constructive job which I know you will do,” he wrote to Jackson.  “Looking forward to seeing you.”

In that busy time, Robert Jackson happened to see the friend in person before Jackson got around to acknowledging in writing the good wishes.  But within a few weeks, Jackson wrote back to thank the friend.

They were, in their life and professional paths, fellow western New Yorkers who each had practiced law in Buffalo.  Jackson’s friend also had served in the World War—with extraordinary valor, resulting in him receiving a number of the highest U.S. military awards and becoming a national hero.

After the War, the friend served in the federal government, in Buffalo and then in Washington.  He did this ahead of Jackson—the friend was almost ten years older, and his Republican Party controlled the White House throughout the 1920s, and, yes, he was famous long before most noticed Jackson.

Jackson wrote back to his friend on February 3, 1937:

My dear Colonel Donovan, 

I am just getting to answer congratulatory messages and, in spite of the fact that a meeting with you has intervened, I want to express appreciation of your telegram. 

I take the job with no delusion about its magnitude or its difficulty at this time.  Not the least of the difficulties is that of succeeding other western New York lawyers who have handled the office with such distinction. 

With best regards and good wishes, I am 

            Sincerely yours, 

            /s/ [Robert H. Jackson]

William J. (“Wild Bill”) Donovan, as principal assistant to U.S. Attorney General John G. Sargent, had headed the Antitrust Division, among other responsibilities, from 1925 until 1929.  Donovan  later returned to government service under President Roosevelt, including, as General Donovan, to found and run the wartime Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.).

And in May 1945, Justice Jackson, after President Truman appointed him to be the U.S. chief of counsel in the international war crimes prosecutions of surviving Nazi German leaders, recruited his old friend General Donovan to be his deputy.

During their months together in that work, which became the Nuremberg trial beginning in late 1945, Jackson and Donovan discussed many things.  One topic that was at least in the background, including as they planned and debated such things as “the Economics case” against Nazi defendants and the merits of basing criminal prosecution on documentary evidence, was their shared, formative experience of heading DOJ’s Antitrust Division.

If you are interested to walk in such footsteps, and in the kind of high ideas that motivate DOJ’s best work, please join us in the Great Hall on September 20th.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.