The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Biden should expand antitrust cases, break up tech companies, high-profile group says. The Biden administration should expand antitrust cases against Alphabet’s Google and Facebook and encourage breaking up companies, according to a group whose founder is working with the president-elect’s transition team. The American Economic Liberties Project, an influential Washington-based anti-monopoly group, issued a report with guidance for antitrust enforcers in the next administration. The group is led by Sarah Miller, who is working with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team and has been instrumental in making antitrust enforcement against Big Tech a mainstream issue. The report’s recommendations offer a glimpse into the thinking that could influence future policymaking under the Biden administration.
Visa, Plaid call off $5.3 billion deal. Visa and financial technology company Plaid said on Tuesday that they would terminate their $5.3 billion merger agreement following a U.S. government lawsuit aimed at stopping the proposed transaction on antitrust grounds. The U.S. Justice Department had sued to stop the deal in November, saying that Visa was a “a monopolist in online debit transactions” and that the proposed acquisition “would eliminate a nascent competitive threat” to that monopoly. The deal, which was proposed in January 2020, was scrapped to avoid protracted litigation, said Al Kelly, chairman and CEO of Visa Inc.
Senator Klobuchar to Write Antitrust Book. Alfred A. Knopf announced that Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat and former presidential candidate, will write about monopolies and her recommendations for how they should be challenged in a book slated for release in April. The book, “Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power From the Gilded Age to the Digital Age,” is a mix of history, law, personal anecdotes and politics, encompassing such companies as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, Amazon and pharmaceutical corporations. It is also a blueprint for how Congress and the incoming Biden administration might adjust the United States’ approach to their regulation. “Corporate consolidation, monopoly power, dark money, and rising levels of income inequality are problems that require a newly invigorated pro-competition agenda,” Ms. Klobuchar said in a statement.
U.S. FTC’s antitrust case against Facebook gets new judge. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook was transferred to another judge on Tuesday so the same person will hear that case and a similar one filed by state attorneys general, according to a court filing on Tuesday. Both the FTC and a large group of state attorneys general, led by New York, filed lawsuits against Facebook in December before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging violations of antitrust law. The company was accused of using its dominance to crush smaller rivals. The state attorneys general requested last month that the cases be consolidated. Facebook objected to the consolidation, saying it was “premature and unnecessary” but did not object to the same judge hearing both cases.
Edited by Gary J. Malone