Glen Rock NJ, A group of 50 attorneys general from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico unveiled a major antitrust investigation of Google Monday, sharply escalating the regulatory scrutiny facing the tech giant.The probe will focus on whether Google (GOOG) has harmed competition and consumers, looking at least initially into the company’s conduct in its search, advertising and other businesses, though it may expand from there.
Today it was announced that a bipartisan group of attorneys general, including New Jersey, have opened a multi-state investigation into allegations of anti-competitive conduct by Google in the market for internet advertising.
In just 10 years, the world’s five largest companies by market capitalization have all changed, save for one: Microsoft. Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Citigroup and Shell Oil are out and Apple, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon and Facebook have taken their place.
They’re all tech companies, and each dominates its corner of the industry: Google has an 88 percent market share in search advertising, Facebook (and its subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) owns 77 percent of mobile social traffic and Amazon has a 74 percent share in the e-book market. In classic economic terms, all three are monopolies.
We have been transported back to the early 20th century, when arguments about “the curse of bigness” were advanced by President Woodrow Wilson’s counselor, Louis Brandeis, before Wilson appointed him to the Supreme Court. Brandeis wanted to eliminate monopolies, because (in the words of his biographer Melvin Urofsky) “in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people.” We need look no further than the conduct of the largest banks in the 2008 financial crisis or the role that Facebook and Google play in the “fake news” business to know that Brandeis was right.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican antitrust veteran has been named on Monday to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team for the Justice Department, a choice that lawyers say signals a more hands-off approach to antitrust enforcement compared to Democratic President Barack Obama.
David Higbee, a partner at the law firm Hunton & Williams LLP, worked for President George W. Bush’s administration from 2001 to 2005, spending the last year in the Antitrust Division. Since then he has advised clients on merger reviews, antitrust litigation and government investigations.
Higbee joins Joshua Wright, an economist and former commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, as the only two people on Trump’s transition team with a background in antitrust.
The Obama administration has challenged an unusually large number of mergers in the last few years, leading to the collapse of Halliburton Co’s plan to buy Baker Hughes Inc, among others. Currently, the Justice Department is suing Anthem Inc to prevent it from buying Cigna Corp and Aetna Inc to stop its purchase of Humana Inc.
While Trump, who campaigned as a populist, has talked tough on media mergers such as AT&T Inc buying Time Warner Inc, and singled out Amazon.com Inc for antitrust scrutiny, Higbee’s naming heralds a return to a traditional Republican view of merger enforcement, lawyers said.
“Higbee will have that sensible caution,” said Bruce McDonald, another veteran of the Bush administration now at the law firm Jones Day. “He will be more confident in business and markets and less confident that government can identify and fix problems.”
An antitrust division designed by Higbee would be tough on price-fixing and mergers of competitors but would be cautious in challenging deals where companies buy suppliers or incidents where companies are accused of breaking antitrust law to run competitors out of business, McDonald said.