09 January 2019
President Richard Nixon, who was born 106 years ago today, fathered arguably the most controversial antitrust settlement in US history: the Department of Justice’s approval of International Telephone & Telegraph’s acquisition of Hartford Fire Insurance. According to a leaked memo at the time, ITT pledged up to $400,000 to finance the 1972 Republican National Convention and abandoned its purchase of two other companies. White House recordings revealed President Nixon telling a deputy attorney general to “stay the hell out of” the ITT thing. Asked whether ITT’s president had money, the US president replied, “Oh God yes, does he ever. That’s part of this ballgame…” The whole episode ultimately spawned the Tunney Act to ensure public scrutiny and judicial oversight for antitrust settlements.