Prof. Fiona Scott Morton to Serve in U.S. Department of Justice
Fiona Scott Morton, professor of economics, has been named deputy assistant attorney general for economic analysis for the U.S. Department of Justice, making her the first woman to hold the post. The position, in which she will oversee a team of more than 50 economists, begins June 1 and will last at least one year. She will take a leave of absence from her teaching at Yale SOM while serving in the government.
Scott Morton will essentially act as the chief economist of the DOJ Antitrust Division, a job traditionally held by an academic in a one- or two-year stint. Her role will cover three key areas: enforcing current antitrust laws; reviewing mergers that come before the department; and exploring how antitrust policy fits in new laws, such as the new healthcare law. Scott Morton will also work on further enhancing the department's relationships with antitrust officials in the European Union, Canada, and other jurisdictions. "This is an exciting time to be working in the antitrust field," she said. "We've got the many competition implications of healthcare law, whether it's new cooperation between hospitals, primary care groups, rehab centers, etc., or the new exchanges soon to be set up. And the upturn in the economy has set off a mini merger wave, meaning there will be plenty of interesting work in M&A. My hope is that I'll be able to be an asset to an already amazing team."
The new position will be a departure from her current role as a senior faculty member at Yale SOM. Scott Morton will manage a large team of economists, while providing her economic expertise to attorneys within the DOJ and officials from other agencies about the many economic issues her group will be analyzing. While the role is new, she said that she believes she's well prepared for it, not least because of her observations of how Dean Sharon Oster transitioned from the Yale SOM faculty to the school's leadership in late 2008. "I've really learned a lot from Sharon—how to appreciate the skills of people in a hierarchy, how to avoid stuff that slows them down," Scott Morton said. "I'm hoping I can use some of these lessons at DOJ ."
While there is currently no end date for her term at DOJ, Scott Morton is already thinking about how her tenure will enrich her teaching when she returns to campus. She is not the first Yale SOM faculty member to serve in the Obama administration (Andrew Metrick, the Michael H. Jordan Professor of Finance and Management, recently spent a year on the White House Council of Economic Advisors) and she believes taking time from teaching and research to get actively engaged in policy and service will only enhance her ability to make complex economic theories more tangible to students. "I'll come back into the classroom and be able to really articulate key policies and how they work in the practical world," she said. "I expect to be able to bring a lot more insights into the classroom, particularly on enforcement and what students need to look out for when they're managers."