White House Order Said to Push Antitrust Enforcement Throughout US Economy

White House Order Must Boost Antitrust Enforcement Across U.S. Economy

The White House is working on an antitrust decision that aims to get government agencies to consider the impact of their decisions on competition in an industry, according to two sources familiar with the case.

The order is going after corporate monopolies in a wide range of industries, ranging from banks to airlines, one of the sources said.

The momentum comes as House lawmakers make strides with sweeping antitrust legislation aimed at curtailing the power of big tech companies like Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, Amazon and Apple and preventing corporate consolidation.

It wasn’t immediately clear how such an order would bolster those efforts on Capitol Hill and curb the power of major tech companies that have thrived for years without much regulation.

One of the sources described the order as “well-developed” and said it builds on a 2016 report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Both sources said it is being worked on by former Obama administration officials who now work for President Joe Biden.

The sources said no decision has been made on when or whether the warrant will be released.

White House spokesman Emilie Simons did not comment on specific details, but said the president made it clear during his campaign that he is committed to increasing competition in the U.S. economy, including by banning non-competition clauses for workers and protecting farmers from abuse.

“There is no final decision on any actions at this time,” she said.

The administration of former President Barack Obama issued a similar order in 2016 that prompted executive agencies to promote competition, but it failed to move the needle. The Biden injunction details how specific government agencies should assess deals and competition in industries, one of the sources said.

The White House recently appointed key antitrust reform advocates. Earlier this month, Biden named Lina Khan, a prominent critic of Big Tech, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

This followed the appointment of Tim Wu, an outspoken critic of Google, Facebook and Amazon, as the president’s special assistant on competition policy.

Biden, a Democrat, has yet to appoint someone to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division, and is believed to be considering Jon Sallet and Jonathan Kanter, who are both involved in the fight against Google.

The pressure from Democrats to go after the monopoly power of big tech companies is not new. The House Antitrust Subcommittee released a damning report on the tech industry last year after a 16-month investigation, declaring Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google engaged in a variety of monopolistic behaviors.

Big Tech companies in particular face similar challenges to their power worldwide, including antitrust investigations in Europe and new legislation in Australia and India to curb their power.

The companies have denied that their business practices harm competition and consumers.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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