Biden nominates Jonathan Kanter to move the DOJ Antitrust Division
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he would nominate Google critic and progressive favorite Jonathan Kanter to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
The selection is yet another shot across the bows of big tech firms following his appointment of Lina Khan to head the Federal Trade Commission. Khan has long been a critic of the status quo antitrust framework in relation to the technology sector. Both Khan’s post with the FTC and the role Kanter would fill if approved by the DOJ share responsibility for prosecuting illegal monopolies and stopping anti-competitive mergers.
Kanter has represented complainants who accused Google of anti-competitive behavior, including Yelp and Microsoft, according to Bloomberg. This could give Google cause to withdraw him from the ongoing antitrust proceedings of the Justice Department. Previously, he also worked for a company that represents Amazon, Mastercard and Uber on antitrust issues, which Politico said could also require his rejection in possible cases that affect these companies.
Khan recently faced his own rejection requests from Amazon and Facebook. Both companies have tried to remove her from antitrust proceedings that affect their businesses based on previous statements she has made. The companies claim these statements show that they have already made up their minds about their liability. Khan and the FTC have not yet responded to the petitions.
While the petitions requesting Khan’s disapproval include her previous statements, Kanter has to contend with actual client representations or perceived conflicts with previous employers that could potentially preclude his participation from certain cases under ethics laws. Still, according to a previously announced agreement between the FTC and the DOJ, the department would split responsibility for investigating the tech firms overseeing the investigation of Apple while the FTC would do so for Amazon.
Prior to that, Kanter was co-chair of the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to open his own law firm. He previously worked as an attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Competition during the Clinton administration.
Another suspected potential pick for the post was Jonathan Sallet, who worked for the state of Colorado on his multi-state lawsuit against Google. Progressive publication American Prospect called the choice “a choice between good and great,” with Kanter as the latter. Sallet’s background within the Obama administration, viewed as technically lax by antitrust reformers, seemed to make some progressives skeptical about how he would run the department.
Even Republicans worried about the power of the tech sector seem open to Kanter’s nomination. 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.
After the news of his planned nomination, Progressive published enthusiastic statements about Kanter. For months, many have been posting pictures with cups labeled “Wu & Khan & Kanter”, a reference to the two cartel candidates and Tim Wu, a technology critic who joined the Biden government as part of the National Economic Council.
“Jonathan Kanter has been a leader in efforts to strengthen antitrust enforcement against monopolies by state, state and international competition authorities for years,” Senate Justice Subcommittee on Antitrust Law Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Said in a statement. “His deep legal experience and his experience in advocating aggressive action make him an excellent choice to lead the Department of Justice’s antitrust division.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Who called for big tech companies to disband, called the nomination “tremendous news for workers and consumers”.
“President Biden has made an excellent choice to lead the DOJ’s antitrust division,” said Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, in a statement. “Kanter is a formidable attorney and has dedicated his career to reinvigorating antitrust enforcement. He developed many of the most successful legal arguments that fueled the great antitrust investigations against Big Tech. And he’s on both sides of the aisle in Congress and in the Legal community. “
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