Biden’s choice for DOJ antitrust post has powerful backers – and Big Tech in the sights
President Joe Biden’s candidate for the Justice Department’s antitrust division is expected to target the tech industry if confirmed by the Senate, where he appears to be a shoo-in.
Jonathan Kanter, who has the backing of predecessors in all jurisdictions since President Gerald Ford, is seen as a hawk of illegal monopolies and anti-competitive mergers, especially within the tech industry.
“In short, we think Mr Kanter is right about this important post,” a group of lawyers who held the post wrote Thursday in a letter to Senate leaders.
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Former senior government lawyers who expressed their support included Democrats who worked under Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as Republicans who worked under Ford and Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Donald Trump.
“I love Jonathan. I actually think he will be a great leader for the antitrust division and advance antitrust enforcement,” said Makan Delrahim, Trump’s deputy attorney general in the antitrust division of the DOJ. Washington Examiner when Kanter was first nominated by Biden in July.
“His experience in the private sector and in government will help him lead the division successfully. He’s a good guy who has been active in the pro-enforcement wing of antitrust lawyers, ”Delrahim added.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are responsible for enforcing antitrust laws, primarily through investigations, prosecutions, penalties, and fines. Antitrust laws aim to protect consumers from mergers and anti-competitive business practices.
Kanter’s appointment is a blow to Silicon Valley companies, such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, which are under intense bipartisan scrutiny by the government on charges of monopolistic behavior.
“Monopoly cases are the equivalent of jaywalking. You just don’t see them. … So what’s wrong? How did we lose our way? Kanter said at a conference called by Yelp in 2018, where he criticized the lack of meaningful antitrust litigation by the federal government.
As an antitrust lawyer, Kanter has previously represented companies, such as Yelp and Microsoft, which have accused Google of unfair and anti-competitive behavior. He also worked for a company representing Amazon, Uber and Mastercard on antitrust matters.
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This background could provide reasons for tech giants, such as Google, Amazon and Uber, to ask him to be challenged in antitrust cases involving their companies due to conflicts of interest.