SEC’s Gensler to Join Biden Panel Aimed at Curbing Consolidation
(Bloomberg) -- The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission will join the debut meeting of President Joe Biden’s competition council, a group intended to curb corporate consolidation that Biden says raises prices for consumers.
The council, announced in July, will hold its first meeting on Sept. 10 at the White House. The panel includes eight cabinet secretaries and chairs of six independent agencies, according to officials familiar with the plan.
The council is led by National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, and attendees will speak about steps their agencies have taken to lower consumer costs, the officials said. Deese will also announce at the meeting that the SEC will participate in the council, and SEC Chairman Gary Gensler will speak and discuss ways that competition can help investors, the officials said.
Inflation emerged this year as a political vulnerability for Biden, as Republicans blamed his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief measure for rising prices. The White House maintains that price increases are temporary, caused by a resurgence in demand as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
The SEC is considering whether it can use its existing powers to give more choice to investors, one of the officials said. That may include examining whether there’s adequate competition for underwriting in bringing firms into the market and for insurance, that official said. Adding the SEC to the council is a sign that it’s expected to deliver more than just a report, the official said.
Biden is not opposed overall to corporate consolidation but his approach is driven by data, which show in many markets that consolidation has caused rising prices for consumers, one of the officials said. He believes increased competition lowers prices, increases productivity and raises wages as firms compete for labor, the official said.
The president announced the creation of the council and an accompanying executive order in July and described himself as a “proud capitalist,” but added a warning.
“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation,” he said. “Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want and treat you however they want. And for too many Americans, that means accepting a bad deal for things that you can’t go without.”
One official cited the Justice Department’s decision to effectively block Aon Plc’s planned takeover of Willis Towers Watson Plc as a sign of Biden’s commitment to competition. The acquisition would have increased costs for businesses, the official said.
Other officials expected to attend the council’s first meeting include Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Cecilia Rouse.
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