Tech Scrutiny to Continue Under Biden, DOJ Antitrust Chief Says

The Trump administration’s outgoing competition chief expects the Biden administration to continue the federal government’s antitrust investigations of U.S. technology companies.

Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief, said scrutiny of the tech industry by enforcers is important for protecting competition in digital markets. Delrahim said he expects a group of staff attorneys in President-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department tasked with investigating tech platforms will continue its work.

Tech Scrutiny to Continue Under Biden, DOJ Antitrust Chief Says

“In markets where you have network effects which lead to a winner-take-all, you want to ensure there is continued competition, continued innovation,” he said. The Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and Congress “are right on the money in taking a close look.”

The Biden administration will take over the Justice Department’s monopoly lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google. The case, filed in October, accuses the company of abusing its dominance in internet search in violation of antitrust laws.

More cases could be in the pipeline. The Justice Department is investigating Apple Inc. over its App Store practices, Bloomberg has reported. Facebook Inc. disclosed in 2019 that the department is investigating the company in addition to the FTC, which sued Facebook in December.

Delrahim, who is recused from the Google investigation, said Congress should consider new regulations for tech companies given how long it can take to resolve antitrust cases. The Google complaint won’t go to trial until 2023.

“Congress should take a look to see if there are other avenues at addressing this rather than the typical slow adversarial process we have,” he said.

The Justice Department’s investigations of Google, Facebook and Apple grew out of a 2019 Justice Department investigation of technology platforms to determine if they are harming competition in digital markets.

Delrahim, whose last day is Jan. 19, is planning to teach at a law school, which he declined to identify until after he steps down.

The job of investigating tech companies would fall to Merrick Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington whom Biden intends to nominate as attorney general. Garland has antitrust experience from former stints at the Justice Department and from his time in private practice. Biden has yet to announce his pick to run the antitrust division or the FTC, which shares antitrust enforcement with the Justice Department.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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