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Biden names tech foe Jonathan Kanter as DOJ antitrust chief

Justin Sink and David McLaughlin, Bloomberg News on

Published in Business News

President Joe Biden plans to nominate Jonathan Kanter as head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, the White House said Tuesday, the latest sign that the administration is preparing a broad crackdown on large technology companies.

Kanter, 47, who left one of the country’s biggest law firms last year to start his own firm, is a long-time foe of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, representing companies that have pushed antitrust enforcers to sue the search giant.

Kanter has “been a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy,” the White House said in a statement.

If confirmed by the Senate, Kanter would take over the antitrust division as it forges ahead with a monopoly lawsuit filed in October against Google and an investigation of Apple Inc. over its App Store practices.

Kanter is the favored candidate of a faction of lawmakers and antitrust experts who say the U.S. economy is plagued by monopoly power across industries, and that enforcers at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission need to more aggressively police mergers and anticompetitive conduct.

Kanter’s nomination follows Biden’s signing of a sweeping executive order designed to promote competition across industries, including measures such as restricting noncompete agreements for workers and allowing imports of prescription drugs from Canada.

 

Advocates of more aggressive antitrust enforcement cheered Kanter’s nomination. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Democrat who chairs the Senate antitrust subcommittee, said Kanter’s “deep legal experience and history of advocating for aggressive action make him an excellent choice.” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, also a Democrat, called it “tremendous news for workers and consumers.”

Washington state Representative Pramila Jayapal, who authored a bill to force companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook to divest some business lines, said Kanter’s nomination is “excellent news for workers, consumers, small businesses, and innovation across America!”

Sara Miller, head of anti-monopoly group American Economic Liberties Project, said Kanter was behind “successful legal arguments driving the major antitrust investigations into Big Tech.”

If confirmed, Kanter would become one of the top antitrust officials in the U.S., along with FTC Chair Lina Khan. Biden unexpectedly elevated Khan to run the FTC after she was confirmed by the Senate as a commissioner last month. Khan, who was a Columbia Law School professor when she was appointed, is one of the most prominent advocates in the U.S. for more forceful antitrust enforcement and breaking with the standard playbook for policing competition.

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