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Justice Department antitrust chief Wayland to step down next week

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The acting head of the U.S. Justice Department's Antitrust Division, Joseph Wayland, will step down as of November 16, a department spokeswoman said on Thursday.

No one has been named to be the acting assistant attorney general for antitrust, said the spokeswoman, Gina Talamona.

The position has been without a confirmed chief since Christine Varney left in mid-2011. Since then, the nomination of William Baer to succeed her has stalled in the Senate.

Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican Senator, has opposed Baer's nomination but has not publicly said why.

Baer, a prominent attorney with the law firm Arnold & Porter LLP, was nominated in early February.

Wayland, whose family lives in New York, will return there, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported he was leaving. Before coming to the Justice Department, he specialized in complex business litigation, including antitrust and securities cases.

The Justice Department recruited Wayland in September 2010 to lead litigation efforts at the division, a hire that appears to have paid off.

President Barack Obama's Justice Department successfully opposed AT&T Inc's planned $39 billion deal to acquire wireless rival T-Mobile USA and stopped NASDAQ OMX Group and IntercontinentalExchange Inc from buying NYSE Euronext.

But the department reached compromises on other deals, such as Ticketmaster's purchase of Live Nation in 2010, Google Inc's acquisitions of ticketing software company ITA and smartphone handset maker Motorola Mobility, and Verizon Wireless' controversial plan to buy airwaves from cable operators.

The division is looking at price-fixing in industries as disparate as auto parts, optical disk drives and the derivatives market, as well as interest-rate manipulation and whether cable companies are trying to prevent the rise of Internet video as an alternative to television.

It has also sued Apple and two publishers - Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH's Macmillan and Pearson Plc's Penguin Group - accusing them of fixing prices of electronic books.

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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