DOJ Antitrust Chief Puts End to Laissez-Faire Merger Policy

If U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter gets his way, mergers would be examined with more scrutiny, decades of lenient antitrust enforcement would end, and competition would bloom.

In an interview with Bloomberg, the 48-year-old Antitrust Division chief, said change is coming from the nation’s top law enforcement agency.

“We’re not just bringing a few big cases, we’re changing the way it’s done,” Kanter told the news outlet.

It’s time, he said, to turn the page on a failed experiment, referencing years of laissez-faire merger policy.

Kanter said he is implementing a major part of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda to increase competition after decades of consolidation, the report stated. Biden hired Kanter last year.

But it won’t be easy. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has the deep pockets needed to fight a lengthy war against the antitrust watchdog.

In the fiscal year that ended in September, Kanter and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), also responsible to enforcing competition laws, reviewed a record 3,500 transactions.

Kanter has made it a priority to prevent tech companies from acquiring new technologies that threaten their dominance. Kanter told the news organization that he will sue to block more mergers rather than accept settlements that allow deals to proceed.

This week, PYMNTS reported that the DOJ has endorsed the proposed American Innovation and Choice Online Act. The measure would prohibit digital platforms like Amazon and Google from giving preference to their own products and services over their competitors. This marks the Biden administration’s first support for the antitrust proposal.

Read more: DOJ Backs US Antitrust Bill That Adds Illegal Conducts but Not Enforcement Powers

The proposal would supplement existing antitrust statutes by specifying what sorts of conduct Congress considers as anticompetitive and illegal, adding that doing so would increase the DOJ’s and the FTC’s authority to challenge that conduct.