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Competition Bureau Commissioner Melanie Aitken, who developed a reputation as a fierce guardian of the country’s antitrust rules in battles against Visa Inc. and Air Canada, will step down in September.
Aitken, who was appointed in August 2009 for a five-year term, will leave her post Sept. 21, the bureau said today in a statement posted on its website.
“I believe we have accomplished what we set out to do and positioned the bureau to continue its valuable work well into the future,” Aitken said in the statement. Greg Scott, a spokesman for the bureau, declined in an e-mail to comment further on the reason for her departure.
Since taking over as commissioner in 2009, Aitken has overseen an increase of cases where companies have made concessions, such as selling assets, to get mergers approved and steered the regulator toward tackling more difficult issues.
Aitken has been emboldened by an overhaul of competition legislation in 2009 that provided her with a range of new tools, including changes to the merger-review process that’s providing companies incentives to seek negotiated settlements.
“She reinvigorated enforcement of Canadian competition law,” said Kevin Ackhurst, a competition partner at law firm Norton Rose in Toronto.
Aitken has overseen several prominent antitrust files, including a review of the proposed C$3.73 billion ($3.6 billion) acquisition of TMX Group Inc. (X), which owns the Toronto Stock Exchange, by a group of Canadian banks and pension funds.
The bureau is investigating allegations that at least seven firms, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Deutsche Bank AG and Royal Bank of Scotland Plc, conspired to affect prices on derivatives linked to the London interbank offered rate, known as LIBOR. Regulators in the U.S., Europe and Asia also have been probing the case.
In December 2010, Aitken sued Visa and MasterCard Inc. (MA) over fees the credit-card companies charge merchants for transactions. She fined BCE Inc. (BCE)’s Bell Canada C$10 million for what the Competition Bureau said were misleading ads over its pricing, and sought to block a proposed joint venture between Air Canada (AC/B) and its Star Alliance partner United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL)
Aitken also has taken on Canadian real-estate agents over online property-listing practices, reaching a settlement with the Canadian Real Estate Association in 2010. In a separate case last year, the bureau sued the Toronto Real Estate Board, claiming it was restricting access to its online listing service.
When asked in a May 8 interview with Bloomberg News if she would complete her term, Aitken said, “the best professional adventures I’ve had have all been unplanned and unexpected.”
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