Friday, January 21News That Matters

Tag: Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues

Will Congress Pass New Regulation on Big Tech? Time May Be Running Out.

Technology
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are readying a major push on bills aimed at restraining the power of the country’s biggest tech companies, as they see the window of opportunity closing quickly ahead of the midterm elections.In a significant step forward, a Senate committee on Thursday voted to advance a bill that would prohibit companies like Amazon, Apple and Google from promoting their own products over those of competitors. Many House lawmakers are pressing a suite of antitrust bills that would make it easier to break up tech giants. And some are making last-ditch efforts to pass bills meant to strengthen privacy, protect children online, curb misinformation, restrain targeted advertising and regulate artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies.Most of the proposals before Congress are long ...

Regulators aim to rewrite rules for big mergers.

Technology
WASHINGTON — Top federal antitrust officials on Tuesday announced a review of how they approve mergers and acquisitions, in a broad effort to strengthen enforcement and clamp down on a surge of corporate consolidation, particularly in high tech.Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, and Jonathan Kanter, head of antitrust at the Justice Department, said they wanted to rewrite the merger guidelines created a dozen years ago because they didn’t directly address the unique problems raised by the tech industry.The review will focus on how the merger review process is applied to free services, such as those from Google and Facebook. Often, price increases are a key measure for anticompetitive conduct, but that standard doesn’t apply to advertising-based business models that offer free...

States Appeal Decision to Throw Out Their Facebook Antitrust Case

Technology
WASHINGTON — Nearly four dozen states on Friday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook that a judge threw out last year.In June, Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia said the states had waited too long after some of the deals under scrutiny were made to file their suit.The plaintiffs, which are led by Attorney General Letitia James of New York and include the District of Columbia and Guam, argued in their appeal that states have more latitude than private plaintiffs for when they file lawsuits. They also argued that it was in the public’s interest for the attorneys general to pursue the antitrust complaints against Meta, the parent company of Facebook.The states’ central claim is that Facebook acquired com...

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Signed Off on Deal at Center of Antitrust Case, States Say

Technology
Google’s chief executive approved an agreement with Facebook at the heart of an antitrust lawsuit that 16 states and Puerto Rico have lodged against the search giant, according to a portion of the complaint revealed on Friday.The lawsuit, led by the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, argues that Google has obtained and abused a monopoly over the network of technology used to deliver ads online.When publishers started using an alternative system for selling their ad space, Google worked to undermine it by creating a similar system that it controlled, according to the lawsuit. The states argue that Google reached a deal with Facebook to have the social network join its effort in an effort to “kill” the publishers’ competing plan.In the newly unredacted portion of the lawsuit, filed in feder...

Facebook Antitrust Suit Can Move Forward, Judge Says

Technology
Holly Vedova, the director of the agency’s bureau of competition, said in a statement that the “F.T.C. staff presented a strong amended complaint, and we look forward to trial.”Facebook said the judge’s decision was a partial victory, because he dismissed one claim, that the company had harmed competition by cutting rivals like the video service Vine from accessing data and features of the Facebook platform. That practice ended in 2018, the judge said.“Today’s decision narrows the scope of the F.T.C.’s case by rejecting claims about our platform policies,” said Chris Sgro, a spokesman for Meta. “We’re confident the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the claims. Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp transformed them into what they are today. They have been good for competi...
Economists Pin More Blame on Tech for Rising Inequality

Economists Pin More Blame on Tech for Rising Inequality

Technology
Yet the technological shift evolved as growth in postsecondary education slowed and companies began spending less on training their workers. “When technology, education and training move together, you get shared prosperity,” said Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard. “Otherwise, you don’t.”Increasing international trade tended to encourage companies to adopt automation strategies. For example, companies worried by low-cost competition from Japan and later China invested in machines to replace workers.Today, the next wave of technology is artificial intelligence. And Mr. Acemoglu and others say it can be used mainly to assist workers, making them more productive, or to supplant them.Mr. Acemoglu, like some other economists, has altered his view of technology over time. In economic th...
Beef Prices Are Soaring, But Cattle Ranchers Aren’t Cashing In

Beef Prices Are Soaring, But Cattle Ranchers Aren’t Cashing In

Business
SHEPHERD, Montana — Judging from the prices at supermarkets and restaurants, this would appear to be a lucrative moment for cattle ranchers like Steve Charter.America is consuming more beef than ever, while prices have climbed by one-fifth over the past year — a primary driver for the growing alarm over inflation.But somewhere between American dinner plates and his 8,000-acre ranch on the high plains of Montana, Mr. Charter’s share of the $66 billion beef cattle industry has gone missing.A third-generation cattle rancher, Mr. Charter, 69, is accustomed to working seven days a week, 365 days a year — in winter temperatures descending to minus 40, and in summer swelter reaching 110 degrees.On a recent morning, he rumbled up a snow-crusted dirt road in his feed truck, delivering a mixture of ...

As Prices Rise Due to Inflation, Biden Turns to Antitrust Enforcers

Business
But, Mr. Maffei said, the focus on antitrust has given the commission tools and confidence to investigate other abuses by shipping companies, now and in the future, when demand falls and companies might be tempted to try to keep their freight rates artificially high. “I think it has upped our credibility” with companies and discouraged anticompetitive behavior, he said.Perhaps the administration’s most sustained focus, in the near term, has been on the meat industry. A report from the National Economic Council this month accused the largest meat processing companies of price gouging to pad profits. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for meat were up 16 percent in November compared with the same month last year.“We’re seeing the dominant meat processors...

Apple Can Delay Changes to App Store Rules, Appeals Court Says.

Technology
A federal appeals court delivered a last-minute reprieve to Apple on Wednesday, agreeing to the company’s request to delay a legal order requiring it to make policy changes to its App Store that could help app developers circumvent what they say are unfair fees.If the appeals court had not ruled, Apple on Thursday would have had to start allowing companies to include links within their apps directing customers to outside websites where they can pay for those companies’ services or subscriptions. That would have prevented Apple from taking a cut of up to 30 percent on those transactions.The order was initially made in September as part of the verdict in a yearlong court case between Apple and Epic Games, the creator of the popular video game Fortnite. Epic sued Apple, accusing it of engagin...
Senate Approves Jonathan Kanter, a Big Tech Critic, As Top U.S. Antitrust Official

Senate Approves Jonathan Kanter, a Big Tech Critic, As Top U.S. Antitrust Official

Technology
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jonathan Kanter, a corporate lawyer and Big Tech critic, to the top antitrust role in the nation, the latest action in efforts to curb the power of Silicon Valley giants.In a 68-to-29 vote, the approval of Mr. Kanter to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division filled a key position in the Biden administration. The White House has made clear that it wants to rein in consolidation in American business, especially among powerful tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.His confirmation will go to President Biden for final approval.Mr. Kanter has fought Google and other tech giants for years — mostly as a lawyer representing rivals such as Microsoft, Uber, Yelp and News Corp. He joins other prominent critics of Silicon Valley i...