business news in context, analysis with attitude

Content Guy’s Note: Stories in this section are, in my estimation, important and relevant to business. However, they are relegated to this slot because some MNB readers have made clear that they prefer a politics-free MNB; I can't do that because sometimes the news calls out for coverage and commentary, but at least I can make it easy for folks to skip it if they so desire.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Congress is considering the most significant changes to antitrust law in decades, including some proposals with bipartisan support. Lawmakers are looking at setting a higher bar for acquisitions by companies that dominate their markets; making it easier for the government to challenge anticompetitive conduct; and potentially forcing some giant tech companies to separate different lines of their businesses.

"For these measures to become law, lawmakers will have to move beyond their general unease with dominant companies - particularly in the tech sector - and navigate constituencies that don’t agree on whether antitrust law needs a major overhaul or targeted changes."

It starts today, when "an antitrust subcommittee led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) holds its first hearing on possible reforms.  Ms. Klobuchar has offered a package of proposals, including new civil fines for antitrust offenses and changes to legal standards to make it easier to challenge proposed mergers and business practices that threaten competition."

The Journal goes on:

"While Republicans are unlikely to support Democrats’ farthest-reaching proposals, there appears to be more common ground than in the past. Makan Delrahim, the Trump administration’s antitrust enforcer at the Justice Department, said before leaving office that it made sense for Congress to place more of a legal burden on companies with 50% or greater market share to prove that their future acquisitions wouldn’t harm consumers. That proposal is in the Klobuchar bill.

"Big businesses are poised to fight many of the measures, which they see as threats to their bottom lines. Facebook and Amazon spent more on lobbying in 2020 than any other U.S. corporations, seeking to influence legislation on antitrust and other matters. The tech giants say they face vigorous competition that forces them to constantly innovate, and that they have acquired large market shares because consumers love their products.

"Facebook and Google, meanwhile, are waging parallel battles in federal courts. Last year, the Justice Department and state attorneys general brought antitrust cases against Google and the Federal Trade Commission and most states sued Facebook. Those cases all focused on claims of unlawful monopolization."

•  In a related story, the Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook has "asked a federal judge to dismiss antitrust lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general, arguing that government enforcers have no valid basis for alleging the social media giant is suppressing competition.

"The FTC 'utterly ignores the reality of the dynamic, intensely competitive high-tech industry in which Facebook operates,' the company said in seeking to dismiss the commission’s case. In a second motion, Facebook argued the states’ case 'does not and cannot assert that their citizens paid higher prices, that output was reduced, or that any objective measure of quality declined as a result of Facebook’s challenged actions'."