WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission here has appointed an administrative law judge to oversee its administrative antitrust case against Whole Foods Market’s acquisition last year of Wild Oats Markets. Whole Foods had objected to the possibility that FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch would preside over the administrative hearing, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 16, 2009. Instead, the FTC appointed Acting Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell to oversee the hearing, which is separate from the federal court case the FTC is pursuing against the deal. The FTC sought a court order to block the merger of the two chains last year, charging that they competed more against each other than against other food retailers. The court order was denied, but the FTC won an appeal in July. Meanwhile, Whole Foods’ stock was battered yesterday and closed down nearly 9%, after Scott Mushkin, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., issued a downgrade.
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