My FTC moments come from the Whole Foods case. First, there was the moment that I heard about the deal on NPR, and recalled working on prior supermarket investigations in which Whole Foods told us in phone interviews that they were distinct from traditional supermarkets. Then, there was the moment when, with the assistance of Erin Dwyer Frazier and Dan Kane, our paralegals, we found the Yahoo Finance username of the CEO, as well as his numerous message board postings that told the same story we heard on prior phone interviews. This was the product market story around which we built our case. I knew that day that what we found was bound to make column four of the Wall Street Journal, but I knew that wouldn’t happen for some time. One particularly notable thing about that moment was that Erin and Dan were paralegals. In many hierarchical organizations, including the FTC at times, paralegals, attorneys and managers work in different silos apart from each other. That wasn’t the case on this team. Instead, the team that did the Whole Foods investigation—myself, Chetan Sanghvi, Rob McMillian, Sam Sheinberg, Jeanne Liu, Gail Slater, Eric Sprague, Jill Frumin, Stephanie Reynolds, Sam Bajaj, Mary Elizabeth O’Neill, Marc Alvarez, Erin and Dan—embodied the FTC at its best. It was flat, it was lean, and it was empowered. Chetan and I sought to make it that way… sharing any and all discussion about case theory and key documents widely amongst the rapidly growing team. By doing so, Erin and Dan, as well as new team members, knew exactly what to look for and where the evidence fit into the case theory. As a result, my video deposition of the leading figure in the natural foods industry, and coincidently, one of the best and brightest cultivators of a mission-driven and empowered company, could not have gone more smoothly.
These moments reminded me that, as I had seen before and since working on numerous Mergers II and other litigations, while we at the FTC are not a Wall Street law firm, we have dedicated and bright people, and when they work in teams and communicate well together, we can overcome even the highest-compensated adversaries.