Profile in Brief: Professor among nation's foremost antitrust experts

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

University of Michigan law professor Dan Crane once dreamed of being a novelist.

"Who doesn't? The idea is still floating around in my mind," he says. "I haven't had my mid-life crisis yet, so there's still time yet, right?"

But Crane found law is an excellent outlet for the power of the pen.

"I love to write," he says. "Most people imagine law as involving oral advocacy in the courtroom, but lots of the practice of law occurs on paper -- in briefs, memos, white papers and so forth."

So it's not surprising that his work has appeared in The University of Chicago Law Review, California Law Review, Michigan Law Review, and Cornell Law Review, amongst others, and his articles have been cited in federal and state court opinions.

An editor of The Antitrust Law Journal and a member of the American Antitrust Institute's Advisory Board, he has authored several books, and recently published a book with Oxford University Press on the institutional structure of antitrust enforcement.

He has another book forthcoming with Oxford on the intellectual history of competition policy, and is co-editor of the "Antitrust Stories" volume of Foundation Press's Law Stories series.

He has written and presented on such topics as "Monopoly Broth Makes Bad Soup," "Obama's Antitrust Agenda," and "Antitrust During Times of Crisis."

Antitrust law makes sure the wheels of competition continue to turn, he explains. Market-oriented societies rely on competition between businesses rather than direction by the government to deliver goods and services that people want.

"If competition fails, then the case for pervasive governmental control and management of our economy becomes much stronger. So antitrust is the lynchpin to our free market system."

He calls this an exciting time to be an antitrust scholar and practitioner because antitrust law is exploding around the world.

For a long time, the United States was the only serious antitrust jurisdiction. In the last several decades, the Europeans got involved, and in recent years, China and India added antitrust regimes. Brazil, Chile, Japan, Korea, South Africa, and Israel, that have had antitrust regimes for some time, have become more assertive.

This proliferation of antitrust is a necessary development as countries liberalize their markets, but raises interesting questions, such as what does a prohibition on monopolizing mean in a market like China where the state owns about half of the productive assets? Is antitrust law a well-fitting tool for dismantling the vestiges of the apartheid-era power structures in South Africa? Should micro-economies like those of the Caribbean basin follow the same competition rules as huge economies like Russia and India?

"There aren't textbook answers to these questions -- we're seeing them develop through trial and error," he says.

Domestically, the story is whether the Obama administration will file any big antitrust cases before the next election, after Obama accused Republicans, during the 2008 election, of having forgotten about antitrust and pledged to revamp enforcement.

"Thus far -- and perhaps due in part to the economic crisis -- enforcement has looked pretty modest," he says. "Lots of people are itching for a big case or two to make good on the campaign pledges."

Two obvious candidates -- block the AT&T/T-mobile merger and/or sue Google for monopolization. But both cases would be politically costly, since AT&T/T-Mobile is a major political contributor and Google's management team has been among Obama's biggest supporters in Silicon Valley.

"So it's all pretty awkward, which makes it fascinating for academics like me," he says.

Crane, who earned a bachelor's degree in political science, magna cum laude, from Wheaton College, received his law degree with honors from the University of Chicago Law School.

After clerking for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, he joined the litigation department of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Miami, followed by a four-year stint at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York.

Crane travels extensively, including an annual return to Portugal to give a short seminar in Lisbon.

"Since I spent most of my first decade in Lisbon, that always feels like a home coming," he says.

A Livonia native, he moved to Portugal as a baby, and spent his childhood in Europe -- Portugal, France, and Germany mostly -- before moving stateside for college.

One of his more enjoyable travel stints was back-to-back lectures in England, Portugal, and Japan last year.

"Everywhere I went, the World Cup was in the air," he says. "When my Japanese hosts in Hokkaido asked what I wanted to do, I told them I'd love to play soccer against the students in honor of the World Cup. They organized a faculty versus students match, followed with a Mongolian barbeque. It was terrific fun. They didn't know Americans could be so into soccer."

Crane provides training to attorneys at Bodhi Global Services, a legal process outsourcing company with offices in India, New York City and Washington, D.C., and spent 10 days in Mumbai training Indian lawyers on U.S. litigation rules.

"Earlier in my career, I had the enormously rewarding experience of traveling twice to India to conduct depositions of retired Indian Supreme Court justices on matters of Indian constitutional and administrative law, for a U.S. arbitration," he says. "India is a fascinating country."

Crane, who joined the Wolverine faculty in 2009, was a professor at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and a visiting professor at New York University Law School and University of Chicago Law School. He also taught antitrust law on a Fulbright Scholarship at the Universidade Católica Portuguesa in Lisbon.

He says most law students -- and especially first year law students -- are eager learners.

"They're learning a whole new vocabulary and a whole new way of thinking. It's fun to watch the transformations," he says.

"Sometimes when my wife thinks I'm being unreasonable, she will say 'you're just being a lawyer.' But to me, that's actually a compliment. If I'm really being a lawyer, I'm being analytically rigorous."

U-M is a wonderful university, he says.

"Not just the law school, but other schools like the economics department and business school where I have colleagues doing creative and interesting work in my field. U-M has a long tradition in interdisciplinary learning. For someone like me whose work straddles law and economics, that's a real advantage."

Crane and his wife Saara, a dermatologist, live in Ann Arbor with their two young sons, Elie and Pascal. Crane's favorite spot is the U-M Nichols Arboretum, where his sons love tromping through the woods and hurling rocks into the Huron River.

"Ideally, life would be a long series of outdoor activities -- running, hiking, camping, biking, swimming, soccer, skiing," he says.

"Reality is two young boys and a very full career. So all of the above happen, but not with the regularity I would wish."

Published: Wed, Jun 29, 2011

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