Buzzfeed news is reporting that billionaire venture capitalist Pete Thiel will be heading up the Trump administration’s search for the nation’s two top antitrust enforcement jobs, according to two unnamed sources.
Thiel is vetting candidates for chairperson of the Federal Trade Commission and antitrust chief at the Department of Justice. Currently Maureen Ohlhausen, a Republican FTC commission member, has been appointed acting chairwoman by the president, but the search for a permanent chairperson is ongoing.
Google favorite Joshua Wright, a former commissioner at the agency, is seen as Google’s favorite for the job — though early reports indicate that he is already out of the running. Sean Reyes, the Utah attorney general, is considered a leading contender – which is less good news for Google, since Reyes last year co-wrote a letter to the FTC asking the agency to consider reopening an antitrust case against Google that it has previously been closed.
Thiel’s challenge, according to the sources, is finding Republicans who are not as libertarian and who are willing to take a Trump-like approach to anti-trust. Though President Trump has no officially released position on the matter, during the campaign he described an active antitrust enforcement regime. Libertarians generally perceive that companies should be left alone — making a potentially robust antitrust position out of President Trump a bit difficult to navigate.
Plus, Thiel has been known to praise monopolies when he believes that dominant market power can give companies the ability to both invest and innovate more.
“Only one thing can allow a business to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival: monopoly profits,” he wrote in his book Zero to One.