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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  March 1, 2021

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

What Happens When a Publisher Becomes a Megapublisher?  When Penguin Random House said last year that it planned to buy Simon & Schuster for more than $2 billion, the entire publishing industry snapped to attention. The merger of two of the largest publishers in the United States — Penguin Random House is already the biggest by almost any metric — has the potential to touch every piece of the book business, including how much writers get paid, which books get priority at printing plants and how independent bookshops are run. One of the main questions federal regulators will look at when deciding whether to approve the deal, said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, is how big the two companies would be if combined. Publishing is a fragmented business: There are general interest publishers and academic publishers, big companies and small ones, as well as people who self-publish. All that makes it difficult to get an accurate read on how dominant any one player is.

Australia’s antitrust chief claims victory after Facebook standoff.  The architect of Australia’s laws forcing Google and Facebook to pay media companies for content claimed victory on Wednesday, though critics said last-minute changes to appease Facebook favored Big Tech over smaller news outlets. After tense negotiations prompted Facebook to cut off news in the country last week, Australia offered a host of technical concessions and the social media giant said it would restore news as the revamped bill looked set to become law this week. While Facebook said its concerns had been met and opposition lawmakers warned that smaller media players may be overlooked, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Rod Sims said the bargaining power imbalance had been righted.

U.S. attorney general nominee Garland says ‘no conflicts’ when it comes to Big Tech.  Merrick Garland, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general, brushed aside any suggestion that he could come under political pressure to drop the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Alphabet’s Google. Garland addressed the issue at his confirmation hearing after Republican Senator Ted Cruz said he was concerned that Garland could come under pressure because of Big Tech donations to the Democrat Biden’s presidential campaign. Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic chair of the committee’s antitrust panel, urged Garland to press on with additional investigations of Big Tech firms, particularly Facebook. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Facebook in December for anticompetitive behavior. Garland responded only: “I take it (antitrust enforcement) very seriously and have throughout my entire career.”

Edited by Gary J. Malone

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,