From the day I started in 1978 to the present, the FTC has provided me with opportunities and a continuing education. As a high ranking antitrust novice in BC, I was immediately put in charge of developing a legislative proposal to limit the large merger wave of the 1970s. The idea seemed to be that, because the proposal was to be new and different, there was no point in assigning a manager who knew about antitrust law as it had developed. So I and my team worked on an idea offered by Harvey Goldschmid, but found we had to do a great deal of historical research to support the proposal. The proposal did not pass but it was taken seriously by the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers who brought phalanxes of scholars to testify against our proposal. Based on our research into legislative history of the antitrust laws, economic and business literature, I wrote articles endorsing the proposal with BC Director Al Dougherty and Chairman Mike Pertschuk that were widely reprinted. I spoke to industry groups, universities, interagency committees even labor groups about the proposal and wrote my own article for the Journal of Business Strategy. It was very heady to be considered an instant expert on American mergers. Also, it was not true.
My more intense education began later as Bert Foer's deputy in Special Projects where we considered the impact of tax law, business strategy, and economic history on competition and government regulation with the help of distinguished academics from around the country. My prominence led to a contract to write and publish a book on mergers. I said I did not know enough, but was eventually persuaded to sign a contract and take a two year leave of absence from the FTC to teach and write my book Megamergers. That required more learning. Publication of the book led to writing Op-Ed pieces for the Wall Street Journal and other papers and seven years as a regular columnist for the Journal of Business Strategy.
Although the Reagan Administration had arrived by the time I returned, I was surprised to find the political changes did not lessen the opportunities that I was offered. I was given the leadership role in first sets of revisions to the HSR rules, with my colleagues in the Compliance Division I led most of the civil penalty actions for HSR violations, Naomi Licker and I did the first ever review of Commission divestiture orders, and I spent a year working with the Indonesian competition agency. I had very good relations with Tim Muris (as BC Director and Chairman) and BC Director Kevin Arquit commented on each of my Business Strategy columns. Director Bill Baer approved the publication of the Divestiture Study that Naomi and I drafted.
These experiences prepared me for my post-FTC years as a Senior Fellow at the American Antitrust Institute where I have published 20 Commentaries on various aspects of American and foreign antitrust laws. I also published in 2011, Reality Ignored: How Milton Friedman and Chicago Economics Undermined American Institutions and Endangered the Global Economy and a variety of articles. I also spent 18 months working with the government of Cambodia on drafting a competition law. None of this would have been possible without the broad experiences I had at the FTC and the education I got from reading and working with my colleagues at the FTC.
—Kenneth M. Davidson