WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s choice to lead competition law enforcement at the Justice Department has gained Senate approval as his administration pursues actions against outsized market power it has condemned in several sectors, including big tech, healthcare, airlines and agriculture.
The bipartisan vote on Tuesday was 68-29 to confirm Jonathan Kanter, an antitrust lawyer who has opposed tech giants in private practice, as deputy attorney general to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division . The post has been without a permanent leader for nearly a year as Biden and his advisers sifted through a number of qualified candidates and then appointed Kanter in July to face Senate scrutiny.
Kanter, who also has government experience at the Federal Trade Commission, will join the team of competition regulators and advisers that Biden has assembled to carry out an anti-monopoly agenda. They include Big Tech critic Lina Khan, raised by Biden in June as head of the FTC, and Tim Wu, another outspoken Big Tech critic, who is one of the White House’s top tech advisers and competition policy. The FTC, an independent regulator, also oversees consumer protection and privacy in addition to competition matters.
As part of efforts to increase competition, protect consumers and curb corporate dominance, Biden has ordered regulators to look more closely at mergers.
At its confirmation hearing last month, Kanter pledged vigorous enforcement to ensure a level playing field for businesses and consumers. He said he was a strong advocate for “vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws in the area of ââtechnology and more.”
As the head of the antitrust division, Kanter will likely lead the prosecution in a landmark case against Google filed by Trump’s Justice Department in October 2020, accusing the company of abusing its dominance in research and advertising. in line. Kanter has represented smaller companies that competed with Google and filed complaints about the search giant’s conduct.
The FTC, meanwhile, is pursuing an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, now known as Meta, claiming that the tech giant has a monopoly on the social media market. The agency is looking for solutions that could include a forced split of the company’s popular Instagram and WhatsApp messaging services, or a global restructuring.
Kanter, like Khan, will deal with competition issues in industries and businesses beyond Big Tech. But these are the tech giants – Alphabet’s GOOGL,
Google, Meta’s FB,
Facebook, Amazon AMZN,
and Apple AAPL,
– and their market dominance which has sparked the greatest public interest, the most epic legal actions, and the sharpest rhetoric from lawmakers.
In a major antitrust action, the Justice Department this month sued to block the proposed $ 2.2 billion acquisition of Simon & Schuster by Penguin Random House from German media giant Bertelsmann, already the largest American book publisher. Regulators have said industry consolidation will hurt authors and ultimately readers, giving Penguin Random House “disproportionate influence” over books published in the United States and the amount of authors’ remuneration. .
The company wants to buy out Simon & Schuster, whose authors include Stephen King, Hillary Clinton and John Irving, from the television and film company ViacomCBS VIAC,
The so-called Big Five book publishers, with Penguin Random House the largest and Simon & Schuster at No.4, control about 80% of the US book market.
In another action this fall, the Justice Department challenged American Airlines’ AAL,
partnership with JetBlue JBLU,
claiming it could result in higher airfares.