The White House is working on an antitrust executive order that aims to push government agencies to consider how their decisions will impact competition in an industry, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The order goes after corporate monopolies across a broad swath of industries ranging from banking to airlines, one of the sources said.
The drive comes as House lawmakers are moving forward with sweeping antitrust legislation aimed at restraining the power of Big Tech companies such as Facebook, Alphabet’s Google, Amazon, and Apple and staving off corporate consolidation.
It was not immediately clear how such an order would aid those efforts on Capitol Hill and rein in the power of large tech companies that have thrived for years without much regulation.
One of the sources described the order as “well developed” and said it builds on a 2016 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Both sources said it is being worked on by former Obama administration officials who now work for President Joe Biden.
The sources said no decision has been made on when or if the order will be released.
White House spokesperson Emilie Simons did not comment on specific details, but said the president made clear during his campaign that he is committed to increasing competition in the American economy, including by banning noncompete agreements for workers and protecting farmers from abusive practices.
“There is no final decision on any actions at this time,” she said.
Former president Barack Obama’s administration issued a similar order in 2016 that pushed executive branch agencies to promote competition but it failed to move the needle. The Biden order includes details on how specific government agencies should review deals and competition in industries, one of the sources said.
The White House has recently appointed advocates of antitrust reform to key positions. Earlier this month, Biden named Lina Khan, a prominent critic of Big Tech, as chair of the Federal Trade Commission.
This followed the appointment of Tim Wu, an outspoken critic of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, as special assistant to the president on competition policy.
Biden, a Democrat, has yet to name someone to lead the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, and is believed to be considering Jon Sallet and Jonathan Kanter, both of whom are involved in fighting Google.
The push by Democrats to go after the monopoly power of large tech companies is not new. The House antitrust subcommittee last year released a scathing report on the tech industry after a 16-month investigation, declaring that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google engaged in a variety of monopolistic behaviour.
Big Tech companies, in particular, face similar challenges to their power around the world, including antitrust investigations in Europe and new legislation in Australia and India to curb their power.
The companies have denied that their business practices hurt competition and consumers.
© Thomson Reuters 2021