Progressive groups warn against appointing tech insiders to key antitrust roles

Washington Examiner/Pool

A coalition of 40 anti-monopoly groups are urging the incoming Biden administration against appointing former Big Tech employees to key antitrust roles in the government.

“We believe that appointing antitrust enforcers with no ties to dominant corporations in the industries they will be tasked with overseeing  particularly in regard to the technology sector  will help re-establish public trust in government at a critically important moment in our country’s history,” the groups wrote in a letter to the transition team Monday.

The 40 organizations, including the American Economic Liberties Project, Demand Progress and Indivisible, specifically called on President-elect Biden to avoid selecting candidates who have served as “lawyers, lobbyists, or consultants” for Amazon, Apple, Google or Facebook.

The letter comes on the heels of reports that Renata Hesse is a front-runner for the top antitrust job at the Department of Justice.

Hesse, a former agency official during the Obama administration, has a long history with tech companies. She has advised both Amazon and Google, most notably helping shepherd through the e-commerce giant’s $13 billion acquisition of Whole Foods.

Biden’s transition team did not respond to questions about Hesse’s potential selection or comment on the letter.

The new president is being sworn into office amid a surge of antitrust activity aimed at the country’s biggest tech companies.

The Department of Justice sued Google last year for allegedly illegally maintaining its monopoly on search and online advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook later for, among other things, making anticompetitive acquisitions in the social media space. With Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra being tapped to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and current Chairman Joseph Simons (R) stepping down later this month, the Biden administration will have two slots to fill on the powerful agency.

Some activity from Congress on the antitrust front is also expected.

Democrats on the House Judiciary committee released a sweeping report last summer detailing the market abuses of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. Republicans have signaled support for some of the remedies in the report.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who led a minority report largely backing the assessment of the industry presented by the Democrats, has criticized reports that Biden could select Hesse for the Justice Department role.

“Joe Biden should not be appointing someone who worked for Google and Amazon to lead the Antitrust Division,” he tweeted Tuesday. “This is very concerning for those of us who want to hold Big Tech accountable.”

Tags Amazon Apple Facebook Federal Trade Commission FTC Google Joe Biden Ken Buck Rohit Chopra

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