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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  October 14, 2019

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

State attorney general group probing Facebook could expand to 40: source.  An estimated 40 U.S. state attorneys general will participate in a probe of Facebook Inc, a source said, suggesting many more states want allegations of anticompetitive practices at the social media company investigated. The probe of Facebook, announced in September, is led by New York and includes Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

Some states, particularly New York and Nebraska, have raised concerns that Facebook and other big tech companies engage in anti-competitive practices, expose consumer data to potential data breaches and push up advertising prices.

FTC’s antitrust chief, who spearheaded tech task force, to step down.  The Federal Trade Commission, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, will lose the head of the Bureau of Competition next month, Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement on Friday. Bruce Hoffman, who has been on the job for more than two years, was behind creation of the Technology Enforcement Division, a small task force that monitors big platforms like Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc, Simons said. Hoffman’s deputy, Ian Conner, will succeed Hoffman, Simons said.

EU’s Vestager says breaking up companies is last option.  Europe’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said on Tuesday she preferred to use fines or other penalties on rule-busting companies rather than break them up, saying this approach would be less disruptive to the companies and the market. Vestager is staying on in her job as European Competition Commissioner for another five years and now enjoys additional regulatory power to target the technology industry as part of a broader role ensuring Europe is fit for the digital age. Calls from critics and politicians to break up tech giants accused of abusing their position to squash competitors have intensified in recent months, especially in the United States.

Facebook CEO to Appear Before Congress on Currency Plan.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will appear before Congress this month as the tech giant is under pressure from lawmakers and regulators over its massive market power and record of privacy breaches. Rep. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who heads the House Financial Services Committee, announced Wednesday that Zuckerberg will testify at a hearing by the panel on Oct. 23. The focus will be on Facebook’s plan to create a digital currency and its role in housing. The company agreed in a legal settlement in March to overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.

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