U.S. Senator Amy Klobutcher (D-MN) is hearing a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “News Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election” on Facebook and Twitter’s content moderation practices on Capitol Hill in Washington, Washington. 17, 2020.
Hannah McKay | Reuters
Sen. Amy Cloboucher, D-Mine., Unveiled an unreliable no-confidence amendment bill Thursday, setting a strong tone in her new role as chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust.
Klubutcher repeatedly criticized what she and other legislators saw as weak enforcement of existing antitrust laws and called for tougher action against some large tech companies. While it has in the past called for amendments to various aspects of antitrust law, the “Equality and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act” has introduced a number of bills, a comprehensive proposal to improve enforcement standards. If implemented, it would bring significantly more risk to companies like Facebook and Google, which are already facing federal lawsuits, and any dominant company seeking to acquire another company.
With this bill, Klubutcher is drawing his line in the sand on anti-trust reform, hinting that he will use his post to call for major changes in the situation. For the most part, the bill seeks to amend anti-trust legislation in three main ways: 1) resetting enforcement standards and shifting the burden in merger cases to dominant companies; 2) agencies need to regularly study the markets and merger effects with the help of additional funding; And)) providing new tools to anti-trust implementers such as imposing civil penalties.
In the House, Antistrus subcommittee chairman David Cecilin, DRI, has similarly called for sweeping reforms during the investigation of Amazon, Apple Pal, Facebook and Google. That investigation ended last year with a nearly 50,000-page report on companies’ alleged monopoly power and suggested reforms to restore competition in the digital market.
The Republicans on the House subcommittee did not fully agree with the Democrats’ remote proposals, they mostly focused on market issues and the need for some reform. That would give Klobutcher’s proposals at least some hope of passing.
Klubutcher’s bill will, in the following way, try to strengthen the implementation of the no-confidence motion, among others:
- Raise the bar for dominant companies wishing to merge with other companies by shifting the burden of proof to merging parties.
- Adding a ban on “exclusion conduct” to the Clayton Act, which governs mergers, makes it difficult for influential companies to prove their mergers would not harm competition if they engage in such acts. Exclusion practices include acts that disadvantage current or potential competitors or limit competitors’ ability or motivation.
- The antitrust department of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces antitrust laws, have an additional budget of 300 300 million.
- Relying on unreliable enforcers to obtain civil penalties for violations of monopoly law and to exclude conduct offenses created by the bill, over other remedies, such as break ups and orders they may have already called.
- Creating an independent Office Fee of Competition Advocate in FTC that can do market analysis to report implementation and help raise customer complaints.
- Merge companies need to update their deal results and agencies to study the effects of past mergers.
- Increasing whistle blower incentives for flagging potential civil violations.
Klobucher blames the court’s decisions for undermining the meaning of the current no-confidence law, an opinion shared by members of both parties, including former President Donald Trump’s antitrust chief, at the DOJ. Its bill seeks to reset standards for determining the existence of violations that would give both government officials and private prosecutors a chance to fight dominant companies.
It could come in handy as agencies prepare to tackle some of the world’s biggest and deepest pockets. Federal agencies and state enforcers are already in the midst of lawsuits against Facebook and Google, which will take many years to hear but will have to go to trial. And implementers have also taken notice of both Amazon and Apple Pal, multiple outlets have reported. All companies have refused to participate in anticompetitive conduct.
In the meantime, it would not be surprising if these companies were invited to testify before Klobutcher’s subcommittee this year.
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Clock: How US anti-trust law works, and what it means for Big Tech