Vanderbilt's New Faculty

Vanderbilt Law School welcomed five new professors in fall 2011: J.B. Ruhl, a nationally renowned scholar of land use and environmental law, who now holds the David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law; and four assistant professors: Rebecca Haw, who focuses on antitrust law; Vijay Padmanabhan, who focused on national security law at the U.S. State Department before joining the academy; Ganesh Sitaraman, whose current work addresses foreign relations law and counterinsurgency strategy; and Yesha Yadav, who focuses on financial regulation.

On the Razor's Edge of Antitrust Law

Rebecca Haw, Assistant Professor of Law

Rebecca Haw

For Rebecca Haw, even weekend bicycle rides present a chance to strengthen her expertise in antitrust law. With good reason: A frequent cycling partner in Nashville's Percy Warner Park is Luke Froeb, an economist and antitrust expert on the faculty of Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management.

The opportunity to collaborate with Froeb, who is Owen's William C. Oehmig Associate Professor, was a factor in Haw's decision to join Vanderbilt's law faculty as an assistant professor. She often uses the bicycle outings with Froeb as an opportunity to develop ideas for her Antitrust Law course, which she is teaching this semester. "About halfway up Three-Mile Hill, assuming we're not totally out of breath, I'll say to Luke, 'OK, let's do double marginalization again,' and by Nine-Mile Hill I'll know how I'm going to teach it," Haw said.

Haw did not originally set out to join the legal academy. After earning her undergraduate degree in English at Yale, she was studying and working at the University of California at Berkeley when a professor suggested she consider a career in the legal academy instead. "That was her take on what I was good at," Haw recalled, "and a switch came on. English was fascinating to me, but it felt like a dead-end for research. I liked the idea of teaching law because it offered an opportunity to study, teach and write about real-world issues and to be involved in policy."

Haw went straight from earning an M.Phil. in American literature at Cambridge to Harvard Law School, where she was articles editor of the Harvard Law Review. After clerking for Judge Richard A. Posner on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, she returned to Harvard as a Climenko Fellow, where she taught while completing her first study of antitrust cases, which was published in the Texas Law Review.

“What I like about antitrust law is that it has a razor's-edge problem. Its greatest aspiration is competition, but it also punishes and deters competing to the utmost.”

The study addressed a conundrum. "Power to interpret the Sherman Act, and thus power to make broad changes to antitrust policy, is currently vested in the Supreme Court," she said. "But re-evaluation of existing competition rules requires economic evidence, which the Court can't gather on its own, and technical economic savvy, which the Court lacks. As a result, the Court has depended on amicus briefs to supply the economic information and reasoning behind its recent changes to antitrust policy. What I think this suggests is that a dramatic shift in authority over the Sherman Act is needed. The power to interpret the act should go to an administrative agency rather than to the Court."

A second study examining the use of expert testimony in antitrust cases in federal district courts is forthcoming in the Northwestern Law Review, and Haw is now studying antitrust cases in appellate courts. "What I like about antitrust law is that it has a razor's-edge problem," she said. "Its greatest aspiration is competition, but it also punishes and deters competing to the utmost. It offers what often seems like an arbitrary set of edicts proscribing certain activities in the name of promoting others that are very similar. It ends up being very complex, technical and expert-driven, which makes antitrust cases an excellent vantage point to study how courts deal with arguments based on specialized knowledge."

Students in Haw's Antitrust Law class are assigned to read court documents in addition to cases; one assignment included the complaint filed by the Department of Justice in August 2011 to block AT&T's proposed merger with T-Mobile. "Two of my students dressed up as T-Mobile and AT&T for Halloween," she said.

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