Christine A. Varney

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Christine Varney
White House Cabinet Secretary
In office
January 20, 1993 – October 14, 1994
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byDaniel Casse
Succeeded byKitty Higgins
Personal details
Born (1955-12-17) December 17, 1955 (age 62)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Thomas Graham
EducationState University of New York, Albany (BA)
Syracuse University (MPA)
Georgetown University (JD)
WebsiteOfficial website

Christine A. Varney is an American lawyer, lobbyist,[5] and internet policy and antitrust expert who is most widely known as a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division for the Obama Administration and as a Federal Trade Commissioner for the Clinton Administration. Since August 2011, Varney has been a partner at the New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore.


Varney attended State University of New York at Albany (1974–1977), studied abroad at Trinity College, Dublin (1975), earned a B.A. from Syracuse University (1978) and an M.P.A. from Syracuse's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs (magna cum laude. 1982), and a J.D. from Georgetown Law School (1985).[1][6]

Varney worked as an associate at the firm of Pierson, Semmes & Finley (1986–1989), general counsel to the Democratic National Committee (1989–1992), chief counsel to the Clinton/Gore Campaign (1991), general counsel to the 1992 Presidential Inaugural Committee (1992), associate at the firm of Hogan & Hartson (1991–1993), and Assistant to the President and Secretary to the Cabinet (1993–1994).[7] In her latter role, she acted as a liaison between the White House and cabinet departments. She stated the Clinton Administration's philosophy of cabinet management this way: "if you don’t surprise us, we won't micromanage you!"[8]

Varney served in the Clinton Administration as a Federal Trade Commissioner from October 17, 1994 to August 5, 1997. [9] As a Commissioner, Varney voted to bring actions against Toys 'R' Us for pressuring manufacturers to keep popular toys out of discount stores, to pursue charges of unfair advertising against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco for its "Joe Camel" advertising campaign, and to impose conditions on the mega-merger between Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting System.[10] In her individual capacity, Varney became known for spearheading the FTC's examination of privacy and commerce[11] , and promoting market theory analysis in the fields of information technology and biotechnology.[12]

Varney was a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm Hogan and Hartson, where she led the Internet practice group.[1][6] As a lawyer and lobbyist, Varney represented and advised companies on matters such as antitrust, privacy, business planning and corporate governance, intellectual property, and general liability issues. Notably, she represented Netscape during U.S. v. Microsoft and its merger with AOL.[13] Other clients included eBay, DoubleClick, The Washington Post Company's Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive subsidiary, Dow Jones & Company, AOL, Synopsys, Compaq, Gateway, the Liberty Alliance, and RealNetworks.[14] According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as a lobbyist Varney represented mostly computer and internet firms, but also oil & gas interests.[15]

Varney was a fundraiser for the Hillary Clinton campaign during the Democratic Party 2008 presidential primaries.[3] After the election of President Barack Obama, Varney served as Personnel Counsel on the Obama-Biden Transition Project.[16]

Varney was nominated for the position of Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice in February 2009,[17] [18] and confirmed by the Senate on April 20, 2009.[19][20] On August 4, 2011, Varney resigned her position at the Justice Department;[21][22] whereupon Attorney General Eric Holder designated her chief of staff, Sharis Pozen to serve as Acting Assistant Attorney General upon Varney's departure.[23]

Areas of private practice and public service[edit]

Online privacy[edit]

While at the FTC, Varney predicted that online privacy would "become a critical aspect of [the FTC's] consumer protection responsibilities."[24] Former FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky has credited Varney as "the leading force in getting the agency active on the online privacy front."[25]

In advocating adoption of the FTC's privacy guidelines, Varney identified a major goal of the FTC's Privacy Initiative as "avoid[ing] cumbersome regulation by facilitating the development of a set of voluntary principles."[26] Varney's promotion of voluntary privacy guidelines was criticized by consumer privacy advocates as insufficient to provide adequate consumer protection.[27][28] Others, however, lauded Varney's approach, believing that tight government regulations would stifle innovation.[27]

As legal counsel and spokesperson for the Online Privacy Alliance, Varney championed self-regulation as the basis for encouraging compliance with Internet privacy standards.[29] The OPA, in turn, has been credited with turning public policy on online privacy in the industry's direction.[30] Over time, however, Varney's position changed. According to an article from November 2000, Varney said: "You could characterize the OPA as having a mantra of 'self-regulation, self-regulation, self-regulation’ . . . Next year, the mantra will be 'industry best practices as part of a comprehensive solution, and there may be legislation that would help.’"[25]

Health and pharmaceuticals[edit]

As an FTC Commissioner, Varney voiced concerns about legislation that would grant certain antitrust immunities to doctors,[31] as well as potential competitive problems caused by vertical integration of drug companies into the pharmacy benefits management market.[32]

As Assistant Attorney General, Varney has suggested that there may be a lack of competition in the health insurance market, and has endorsed a measure that would revoke the federal antitrust exemption for health insurers.[33] Varney has also been critical of "reverse payment patent settlement" or "pay-for-delay" agreements, in which a potential generic competitor delays entry of a generic drug in exchange for a payment from a branded drug manufacturer with market power. A brief signed by Varney argues that such agreements are "presumptively unlawful."[34] This position signifies a departure from the previous view held by the DOJ, and aligns the DOJ's position on "pay-for-delay" agreements with that of the FTC.[35]


Varney (left) speaks on credit card fraud as Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division in 2010, with Attorney General Eric Holder at right

As a Commissioner at the FTC, Varney was outspoken about monopolies in innovation markets and about the possibility that vertical mergers create unfair barriers to entry.[36]

Upon her nomination as the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division by President Barack Obama, Varney was predicted to be a more aggressive enforcer of antitrust laws than her predecessors in the Bush administration.[37] Her nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on April 20, 2009, by a vote of 87 to 1.[38]

Consistent with predictions, one of Varney's first acts as an Assistant Attorney General was to withdraw the Justice Department's 2008 guidelines for enforcement of Section 2 of the Sherman Act.[39] In her first public comments as an Assistant Attorney General, Varney criticized the guidelines for "effectively straightjacket[ing] antitrust enforcers and courts from redressing monopolistic abuses, thereby allowing all but the most bold and predatory conduct to go unpunished and undeterred."[40] She delivered the speech twice, first, on May 11, 2009, at the Center for American Progress, and the next day at the United States Chamber of Commerce.[41]

Varney opened inquiries into the financial services and wireless phone industries, and begun probing the settlement between Google and the Association of American Publishers.[42] In July 2009, the United States Department of Transportation approved an antitrust immunity request by Continental Airlines against Varney's recommendation after National Economic Council Director Larry Summers mediated the inter-agency dispute.[43]

Between 2008 and 2010, the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement work has resulted in the assessment of over $1.5 billion in fines against criminal conspirators.[44]

As both a Commissioner of the FTC and Assistant Attorney General, Varney has called for more cooperation in international antitrust enforcement. As an FTC Commissioner, Varney stated, "there is much more to be done by way of fostering communication and cooperation between enforcement authorities," and promoted adherence to international antitrust guidelines.[45] Similarly, in her first public remarks as Assistant Attorney General, Varney stated, "I believe that as targets of antitrust enforcement have expanded their operations worldwide, there is a greater need for U.S. authorities to reach out to other antitrust agencies."[40] Since then, Varney has called for greater convergence, cooperation, and transparency between international antitrust enforcement agencies.[46]

During her tenure, Varney successfully prevented several mergers and acquisitions, including NASDAQ and Intercontinental Exchange from acquiring NYSE Euronext, as well as Verifone's acquisition of Hypercom.[47] She allowed the mergers of Live Nation Entertainment with Ticketmaster, Comcast with NBCUniversal, and the acquisition of ITA Software by Google.[47] After Varney and the Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration proposed rules to combat price fixing by meat packing industry, Congress defunded its enforcement.[48][49]

Varney approved the merger of Continental Airlines and United Airlines, whom were represented in the deal by Cravath, Swaine & Moore.[47] In 2010, Varney then hired Katherine B. Forrest, the partner at Cravath responsible for the airline clients, as a deputy.[47]

In October 2010, Varney brought an anti-competition suit against Visa Inc., MasterCard, whom soon settled, and American Express, who did not.[47] Evan Chesler, the presiding partner at Cravath who represented MasterCard, then recruited Varney to join the firm.[47] Varney started at Cravath in September 2011.[47]

Varney was only the fourth outsider named a partner at the Cravath in fifty years, where average partner pay that year was $3.1 million.[50] In January 2013, Varney defended the Grupo Modelo acquisition against an antitrust lawsuit by the Department of Justice.[51]

Other activities[edit]

Varney was instrumental in establishing several industry associations, including the Online Privacy Alliance, which helped promote self-regulation and identify Internet best practices in the field of online privacy.[52] She also was on the board of directors of TRUSTe, a privacy certification and seal program.[53]


  1. ^ a b c "Christine A. Varney." Marquis Who's Who TM. Marquis Who's Who, 2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. Fee. Fairfax County Public Library. Accessed 23 January 2009. Document Number: K2015257316.
  2. ^ "Christine A. Varney Profile -". Retrieved 2009-01-23. Ms. Varney was elected to [Ryder System, Incorporated's] Board of Directors in February 1998
  3. ^ a b Dowty, Douglass (November 5, 2008). "Syracuse native Christine Varney named to Obama transition team". Syracuse, New York: The Post-Standard. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  4. ^ "Nomination of Christine A. Varney to be a member of the Federal Trade Commission : hearing before the second session". Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress. October 5, 1994. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  5. ^ "Christine Varney". The Washington Post. 2012-07-26.
  6. ^ a b "Christine A. Varney - Professionals - Hogan & Hartson". Hogan and Hartson. Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  7. ^ "U.S. Senate Session C-Span recording from April 20, 2009 (Sen. Arlen Specter speaking at 3:11:38)". C-Span. 20 April 2009. p. 3:11:38. Retrieved 2016-03-17.
  8. ^ "American President - Office of Cabinet Affairs (EOP, The White House Office)". University of Virginia: Miller Center. Archived from the original on 20 April 2003. Retrieved 23 January 2009. [From Bradley H. Patterson, The White House Staff: Inside the West Wing and Beyond (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press), pp. 330-39. Reprinted with permission of Brookings Institution Press.]
  9. ^ "Federal Trade Commission - Speeches by Former Commissioners". Archived from the original on 2009-05-11. Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  10. ^ Stohr and James Rowley, Greg (22 January 2009). "Varney Selected by Obama as Justice Department Antitrust Chief". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  11. ^ "FTC Commissioner Will Step Down". The New York Times. 1997-07-10. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-15. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
  13. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (12 January 1999). "Your Data on the Black Market". Wired magazine. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  14. ^ "Interview with Christine Varney, Privacy Piracy (radio show)". Privacy Piracy, KUCI. Retrieved 2010-03-06.
  15. ^ "Revolving Door — Christine A Varney — Industries Represented". Opensecrets. Center for Responsive Politics. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  16. ^ "Obama Names Transition Team". U.S. News & World Report. 5 November 2008. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  17. ^ "Head Count: Tracking Obama's Appointments". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on March 31, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-06.
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ "Nomination of Assistant General for the Antitrust Division - Christine Varney". United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Retrieved 2010-03-06.
  20. ^ "Attorney General Eric Holder Welcomes Assistant Attorneys General for Antitrust, Civil, and Criminal Divisions". US Department of Justice. PR Newswire. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
  21. ^ "Varney to step down as top antitrust official". Chicago Tribune. Reuters. July 6, 2011.[dead link]
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Varney, Christine (9 October 1996). "Consumer Privacy in the Information Age: A View from the United States". Prepared Remarks before the Privacy & American Business National Conference. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved 2010-03-07.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ a b Perine, Keith (13 November 2000). "The Persuader". The Industry Standard. FindArticles. Archived from the original on 19 September 2004. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  26. ^ Varney, Christine (1 November 1995). "Privacy in the Electronic Age". Prepared Remarks before the Privay & American Business Conference. Archived from the original on 3 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-05.
  27. ^ a b Yang, Catherine (5 February 1996). "How Do You Police Cyberspace?". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 2010-03-04.
  28. ^ Rotenberg, Marc (14 December 1995). "Letter to Commissioner Christine Varney from Marc Rotenberg, Director of EPIC". Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Retrieved 2010-03-06.
  29. ^ Steve Lohr (1999-10-11). "Seizing the Initiative on Privacy; On-Line Industry Presses Its Case for Self-Regulation". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  30. ^ David Streitfield & Quentin Hardy (June 9, 2013). "Data-Driven Tech Industry Is Shaken by Online Privacy Fears". The New York Times.
  31. ^ Varney, Christine (23 October 1995). "The Health Care and Antitrust Interface in an Era of Fundamental Industry-Wide Realignments". Speech at the SMS Health Executives Forum. Federal Trade Commission. Archived from the original on 31 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  32. ^ Varney, Christine (10 May 1995). "The Dangers of Health Industry Consolidation and Corporatization and the Effect on Quality, Cost and Access". Prepared Remarks Before the Citizens Fund Conference. Federal Trade Commission. Archived from the original on 26 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  33. ^ Woellers and Justin Blum, Lorraine (27 February 2009). "Antitrust Enforcer for U.S. Says Insurers May Lack Competition". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  34. ^ "Brief for the United States in Response to the Court's Invitation, Ark. Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund v. Bayer, AG, No. 05-2851 (2d. Cir. July 6, 2009),". Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  35. ^ Synnott and William Michael, Aiden (September 2009). "Antitrust and Intellectual Property: Recent Developments in the Pharmaceutical Sector". Competition Policy International. pp. 2–5. Retrieved 2010-03-08.
  36. ^ Bemos, Tellis (14 May 2009). "America's New Monopoly Buster". Fortune. Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-05.
  37. ^ Gates and Tej Srimushnam, Sean (5 February 2009). "A New Direction?". The Deal Magazine. Archived from the original on 23 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-05.
  38. ^ Pres. Nom. 89, 111th Cong. (2009).
  39. ^ Labaton, Stephen (11 May 2009). "Administration Plans Tougher Antitrust Action". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  40. ^ a b Varney, Christine (12 May 2009). "Vigorous Antitrust Enforcement in this Challenging Era, Remarks as Prepared for the United States Chamber of Commerce". U.S. Department of Justice: Justice News. Retrieved 2016-03-17.
  41. ^ Labaton, Stephen (11 May 2009). "Administration Takes Tougher Antitrust Line". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  42. ^ Bartz, Diane (8 July 2009). "New U.S. Antitrust Chief Making Presence Felt". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  43. ^ Labaton, Stephen (25 July 2009). "Antitrust Chief Hits Resistance in Crackdown". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  44. ^ Meet the Attorney General, archived from the original on 2010-10-27
  45. ^ Varney, Christine (17 October 1996). "Remarks presented to the Fordham Corporate Law Institute's 23rd Annual Conference on International Antitrust Law & Policy". Federal Trade Commission. Archived from the original on 30 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  46. ^ Varney, Christine (15 February 2010). "Remarks as Prepared for the Institute of Competition Law, New Frontiers of Antitrust Conference". Department of Justice. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  47. ^ a b c d e f g Lattman, Peter; de la Merced, Michael J. (6 July 2011). "Cravath to Hire Antitrust Chief". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  48. ^ Morris, Frank (25 January 2012). "Antitrust Official Gets Stampeded By Big Beef". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  49. ^ "Public Workshops: Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy | ATR | Department of Justice". Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  50. ^ Lattman, Peter (25 September 2012). "Culture Keeps Firms Together in Trying Times". The New York Times. p. F9. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  51. ^ Merced, Michael J. de la (31 January 2013). "Justice Dept.'s Fight Against Modelo Deal Brings in a Familiar Face". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  52. ^ Lohr, Steve (11 October 1999). "Seizing the Initiative on Privacy; On-Line Industry Presses Its Case for Self-Regulation". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  53. ^ "TRUSTe Elects Former Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Varney Chairperson; Child's Advocate Parry Aftab and Washington Post CTO Ralph Terkowitz Also Appointed to the Board". PR Newswire. 11 February 2003. Retrieved 2010-03-10.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Daniel Casse
White House Cabinet Secretary
Succeeded by
Kitty Higgins