Asst. Attorney General Makan Delrahim Resigns, DOJ Ends ASCAP/BMI Consent Decree Review

Makan Delrahim
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
– Makan Delrahim

Assistant Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division Makan Delrahim tendered his resignation on Jan. 13, effective Jan. 19, one day before Joe Biden’s administration enters the White House.

Delrahim was named to Pollstar’s inaugural Impact 50 list in 2019 and, as head of the anti-trust division, was in charge of reviewing consent decrees such as those with ASCAP and BMI and that allowed the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. 

In 2020, under Delrahim’s watch, the DOJ decided to modify and extend the consent decree allowing Live Nation and Ticketmaster to merge for another five-and-a-half years.

Today, at a virtual event hosted by Vanderbilt University Law School, he announced the end of the DOJ’s investigation into the consent decrees which have been binding performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI since 1941. In his comments Delrahim said these two PROs today account for approximately 90 percent of public performance licensing in the U.S.

Delrahim identified the most contentious issues in BMI/ASCAP consent decree as fractional licensing and partial withdrawal, with mechanical and synchronization rights also being a concern, but decided to not make any changes.

“[T]here is significant reliance on the decrees within the licensee community. Throughout the Division’s investigation, many licensees expressed the view that the decrees are largely working,” Delrahim said. “For many composers, songwriters, and publishers, ASCAP and BMI licenses provide the most meaningful way to be compensated for the public performance of their works with respect to many categories of music users. Finally, the decrees provide protections against infringement actions for works not properly listed in the organizations’ public repertories.”

He went on to say that the consent decree should be reviewed every five years and that the watchword for any effective regulation must be competition. “Competition for the benefit of consumers, competition for the benefit of innovation, and most importantly, competition for the benefit of the artists and songwriters without whom the American music industry would not exist.”

In his resignation letter to President Donald Trump, he wrote that his division “successfully enforced the competition laws and implemented transformative policy and organizational initiatives that will bear fruit for both American consumers and entrepreneurs for years to come,” Deadline reported.

Under his tenure the DOJ also attempted to block the $85 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner, leading to a 2018 court decision allowing the merger and the upholding of that decision after numerous appeals.

Biden has not yet announced Delrahim’s successor.