Antitrust enforcement in the Biden administration is about change, according to Timothy Wu, who played a key role in the executive order President Joe Biden signed in July aimed at limiting corporate dominance and making American businesses more competitive.
“We feel strongly that we are playing a role in our democracy in responding to the will of the people,” Wu said during a speech to antitrust lawyers at the ABA Antitrust Law Section’s annual Fall Forum, held in person Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C. “Polls show that the public is truly concerned that the federal government should do more about the power of monopolies in order to make the economy more fair and competitive.”
But Utah Sen. Michael Lee, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, later in the program called the administration’s attempts at reform “an ideological witch hunt.”
“Antitrust reform is absolutely necessary. But it must be done in a principled and effective way, one that improves the lives of consumers and improves the economy as a whole. Not as an ideological witch hunt,” Lee said in his virtual speech to the conference.
Wu serves as the Special Assistant to the President for Technology and Competition Policy, National Economic Council. He is a key figure on the White House Competition Council, which was created in Biden’s executive order to bring a whole-of-the government enforcement effort to promote competition in the U.S. economy.
Wu said that the administration’s revitalization of antitrust marks a return to the original intent of the nation’s antitrust laws after 40 years of scaling back enforcement that began in the Reagan administration.
Wu cited several areas where change is manifest, noting that the administration has nominated strong enforcement-minded leaders to head the main antitrust agencies — Lina M. Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission, and Jonathan Kanter to head the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. Biden has also prioritized the appointment of judges devoted to the rule of law, which includes the laws of economic justice, and pioneered an administration-wide approach to competition.
“All of this suggests that the administration is serious about the lack of competition in the economy and is serious about the solutions,” Wu said.
Lee, who provided a “View from the Hill,” offered up three predictions about the administration’s reform efforts.
“In 20 years from now three things will be true. Competition will be no better, consumers will be worse off, and the appetite for radically transforming the Federal Trade Commission will be at levels not seen since the 1970s,” he said.
- ABA Antitrust Law Section Fall Forum
- Not to be ignored: President Biden’s antitrust executive order
- ABA Antitrust Law Section releases Presidential Transition Report on enforcement
- ABA Journal