Top antitrust GOP senator criticizes division of tech probes

Top antitrust GOP senator criticizes division of tech probes
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeExclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks MORE (R-Utah) on Monday penned an op-ed criticizing the federal agencies in charge of antitrust enforcement for divvying up their probes of the country's largest tech giants, saying only one agency should be in charge of investigating companies such as Facebook and Google. 

Lee's op-ed comes in response to reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be opening up investigations into the tech companies, with the FTC in charge of overseeing Facebook and Amazon while the DOJ takes on Apple and Google.  

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"No industry should be free from antitrust scrutiny, including big tech," Lee wrote in an article for the Washington Examiner. "But, splitting of this tech antitrust review across two federal agencies, despite the many similar competition issues that will be investigated, illustrates the absurdity of having two federal agencies handling civil antitrust enforcement."

"It also shows why these investigations are likely to be less effective and coherent than they should be," he added. 

Lee is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee antitrust panel that would likely oversee any upper chamber investigation into big tech's enormous market power and potential competition issues. He has previously expressed skepticism at the prospect of the Senate Judiciary Committee opening up any such investigation, though other senators on the committee have signaled a willingness to do so. 

The Trump administration and Congress have stepped up antitrust investigations into companies such as Facebook and Google in recent weeks, with the House Judiciary Committee launching a wide-ranging antitrust probe of tech giants earlier this month. 

According to multiple reports both the FTC and DOJ are taking initial steps toward opening up inquiries though neither have officially announced any investigations.

"Congress should focus on ensuring that antitrust enforcement efforts are backed by appropriate resources," Lee wrote in the op-ed. "One way to further that goal would be to reorganize civil antitrust enforcement so that it is done under one roof. Doing so would result in more coherent, efficient, and effective antitrust enforcement." 

The Utah Republican argued the federal agencies' division of antitrust enforcement creates "a duplication of resources" and "conflicts between the agencies on how they analyze competition issues."