THE POETICS OF MERGER ENFORCEMENT: COMMISSIONER TOM LEARY EXPLAINS THE PICKLE CASE AS TRANSPARENCY REACHES NEW HEIGHTS IN "THE SPELL OF THE GHERKIN"

[Each year, alumni of the FTC convene as the Castro C. Geer Society, named after an infamous FTC bureaucrat who became the icon of the "sleeping old lady" in the days before the FTC's reinvigoration during the Nixon Administration. This year's Castro C. Geer Society met at the firm of Morgan Lewis in Washington on December 19. A highlight of the convention was the recitation of this poem, provided to the AAI by its author, Commissioner Tom Leary.]

The Spell of the Gherkin

(With apologies to "The Spell of the Yukon" by Robert Service.)

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold..."

So begins a story of grit and glory:
The Cremation of Sam McGee.
I remember when, as a boy of ten,
T'was the epitome of poetry.

We here unveil a gentler tale,
Which still will stir the blood,
Where heroes try, in coat and tie,
To serve the public good.

* * *

There are strange things done in Washington
When companies are sold.
And paper trails tell lurid tales
Of price hikes to unfold.

It is not nice to raise the price
When rivals have disappeared.
The problem, though, is how will we know
Before the deal has cleared.

The cases we face are all over the place
But, the strangest I've seen so far
Was the time we took a good long look
At pickles in a jar.

Now, you may say in a scornful way:
"Who cares what the parties claim?
A nickel's a nickel and a pickle's a pickle;
They're all exactly the same!"

But, you see, they're not. Some like them hot
And some like them cold and clear.
We had to say: "What will you pay
For one, if the other grows dear?"

We sacrificed leisure in order to measure
Elasticity of demand.
As we carefully counted, the evidence mounted.
The pickles, it seems, had been scanned!

On these occasions, regression equations
Are never considered a bore.
The pluses and minuses cleared out the sinuses,
And thrilled us all to the core.

"The Spell of the Yukon," indeed! The next time I read
Those poems I loved long ago,
About the quest for gold in the bitter cold
And wolves that howl in the snow-

I'll say: "My lad, you've never had
A moment so sublime
As that shining hour when market power
Was checked in the nick of time!"

* * *

Today, throughout this favored land
The sun is shining strong.
The bands are playing everywhere,
As children skip along.
Because those pickles, those luscious pickles
Still are sold for a song.

Tom Leary
(With a last-minute nod to the next-best poem in the language.)