Biden to appoint Jonathan Kanter to head DOJ antitrust division


US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on economic recovery in the State Dining Room of the White House on July 19, 2021.

Demetrius Freeman | The Washington Post | Getty Images

President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he would appoint Google critic and progressive frontrunner Jonathan Kanter to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

The selection is another love at first sight for Big Tech companies, following the appointment of Lina Khan as head of the Federal Trade Commission. Khan has long been critical of the status quo antitrust framework when it comes to the tech industry. Khan’s position at the FTC and the role Kanter would fulfill if confirmed to the DOJ share the responsibility of pursuing illegal monopolies and stopping anti-competitive mergers in their tracks.

Kanter has represented plaintiffs who have accused Google of anti-competitive behavior, including Yelp and Microsoft, according to Bloomberg. This could justify Google asking him to be recused from his ongoing antitrust case filed by the Department of Justice. He also previously worked for a company representing Amazon, Mastercard and Uber on antitrust matters, which may also require his recusal on potential cases involving those companies, according to Politico.

Khan recently faced his own challenge demands from Amazon and Facebook. Both companies have sought to have her withdraw from antitrust cases involving their companies based on previous statements she made. The companies say these statements show that it has already made up its mind on their liability. Khan and the FTC have yet to respond to the petitions.

While petitions calling for Khan’s recusal relate to his past statements, Kanter will face actual client representation or perceived disputes involving former employers that could potentially disqualify his participation in some cases under employment laws. ethics. Yet under a previously reported agreement between the FTC and the DOJ dividing the responsibility for investigating tech companies, the department would oversee investigations into Apple while the FTC would oversee Amazon.

Previously co-chair of the antitrust practice of law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Kanter left last year to open his own law firm. Previously, he worked as an attorney at the FTC Competition Bureau during the Clinton administration.

Another potential choice for the job was that of Jonathan Sallet, who worked for the state of Colorado in its multi-state lawsuit against Google. The progressive publication American Prospect called the choice “between the good and the great”, with Kanter as last. Sallet’s experience in the Obama administration, which antitrust reformers saw as tech-lax, seemed to make some progressives skeptical of how he would run the division.

Even Republicans who worried about the power of the tech sector seemed open to Kanter’s appointment. Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, told Protocol in an interview published earlier this year that, based on discussions with lawmakers, “Kanter would have a much cleaner confirmation hearing” than Sallet.

Following the announcement of his planned appointment, Progressives have issued enthusiastic statements about Kanter. For months, many posted images with mugs emblazoned with “Wu & Khan & Kanter,” a reference to both antitrust candidates and Tim Wu, a tech critic who joined the Biden administration as part of the Economic Council. national.

“For years, Jonathan Kanter has been a leader in efforts to strengthen the enforcement of antitrust laws against monopolies by federal, state and international competition authorities,” said the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee. on anti-competition, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in a statement. “His deep legal experience and his history of aggressive action advocacy make him an excellent choice to lead the Department of Justice’s antitrust division.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Who called for the disbandment of big tech companies, called the appointment “tremendous news for workers and consumers.”

“President Biden has made an excellent choice to head the antitrust division of the DOJ,” Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project antimonopoly group, said in a statement. “A formidable lawyer, Kanter has dedicated his career to reinvigorating antitrust law enforcement. He has crafted many of the most successful legal arguments behind major Big Tech antitrust investigations. And he is widely respected by both. sides of the aisle to Congress and the legal community. “

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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