After bringing former Anthem lobbyist Makan Delrahim on board earlier this year as the White House’s deputy assistant and deputy counsel, Donald Trump has nominated Delrahim to serve as assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s antitrust division—a post Delrahim previously held from 2003 to 2005.
The nomination comes while the Anthem-Cigna merger case is being considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, leading to concerns that there could be a conflict of interest, and that the Trump administration could potentially influence the outcome of the case. A spokeswoman for the White House said Delrahim has not been involved in the merger since he became part of Trump’s transition team and has recused himself from any involvement in the matter, The Washington Post reported.
A March 23 white paper released by Beacon Policy Advisors states that Anthem paid Delrahim and another lobbyist at his law firm $370,000 over a period of 15 months to lobby on behalf of the merger.
In the appellate court hearing on March 24, Anthem’s attorney told the panel of judges that the district court ruling blocking the merger on the grounds that it would stifle competition was wrong because it ignored $2.4 billion in savings from hospitals and physicians that Anthem says could be passed on to employers.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh seemed open to considering that argument but cited the lower court’s finding that those savings aren’t verifiable and could be achieved through less restrictive means than merging with Cigna, according to Bloomberg BNA. DOJ attorney Scott Westrich countered that the merger’s harm to competition would outweigh any potential cost savings.
It’s likely that the court could hand down its decision before the Senate votes on Delrahim’s confirmation, rendering the matter essentially moot.