Anti-Monopoly Fund Funnels $1 Million into Antitrust Efforts

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A group pushing for more competitive markets is funneling more than $1 million into initiatives that promote stronger antitrust enforcement as U.S. regulators examine whether Silicon Valley’s biggest companies have too much power over commerce.

The Anti-Monopoly Fund -- which was started last year by Facebook Inc. co-founder Chris Hughes and the nonprofit group he chairs -- said Monday that it’s donating $1,625,000 to 14 research institutions, small business groups, public-interest campaigns and other organizations that examine market concentration in a variety of sectors. Since leaving Facebook in 2007, Hughes has emerged as a critic of the power of large technology companies and stunned observers when he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last year calling for the breakup of the social media giant he helped create.

The donations are part of a larger effort announced last year by the Economic Security Project to spend $10 million on promoting more robust competition in the technology, pharmaceutical, financial services and agricultural industries.

The Fund is seeking reforms in the marketplace as antitrust scrutiny of the technology sector intensifies at federal, state and congressional levels. The chief executive officers of Facebook, Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc. are poised to testify Wednesday in an extraordinary joint appearance before a congressional panel investigating competition in the technology industry.

“The upcoming Congressional hearing involving CEOs from America’s biggest tech companies is a much-needed step toward oversight of an industry with virtually none of the checks on power required of other major businesses,” Hughes said in a statement. “We should not rely on any corporation to self-regulate, and I’m grateful political leaders are transcending party lines to take action and curtail the undue power and influence of these corporations.”

Among the Fund’s new grantees include the American Independent Business Alliance, which plans to work with its network of small and independent businesses to expose potential antitrust violations, according to the Fund. Liberal advocacy group Demand Progress plans to organize grassroots campaigns to promote accountability of big technology companies. Howard University’s Institute for Intellectual Property & Social Justice will organize entrepreneurs of color and reach out to Congress about the ways tech platforms are impeding competition in e-commerce, according to the Fund. The American Prospect will investigate the concentration of corporate power.

The groups receiving funding are adding to regulatory pressure already on the biggest tech companies. Facebook and Google both face competition inquiries by federal enforcers and nearly all 50 states. Amazon is under investigation by the FTC, the EU and California, Bloomberg has reported. Apple is also under scrutiny in Europe and by the Justice Department. in Europe and by are facing scrutiny from the European Union.

The Fund is ramping up its funding at a time when companies of all sizes are foundering in a pandemic-stricken economy.

Under the pandemic, “small businesses, which long have been a stalwart against big businesses, are really struggling to find their footing,” said Anti-Monopoly Fund executive director Taylor Jo Isenberg. “We’re seeing an acceleration of a problem that already existed in the way that requires this even more aggressive response.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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