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The Department of Justice headquarters stands on February 19, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'Tremendous News for Workers and Consumers': Biden Picks Kanter as DOJ Antitrust Chief

Jonathan Kanter is being described as a "formidable attorney" who's "devoted his career to reinvigorating antitrust enforcement."

Andrea Germanos

Critics of Big Tech and monopoly power welcomed President Joe Biden's Tuesday announcement that he plans on nominating lawyer and competition policy proponent Jonathan Kanter to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) called the development "excellent news for workers, consumers, small businesses, and innovation across America!"

"I've been pushing for this," she tweeted, "and I'm looking forward to working with Kanter as we rein in Big Tech's anti-competitive practices, put an end to monopolistic practices, and promote fairness."

A White House statement praises Kanter as "a distinguished antitrust lawyer with over 20 years of experience" who's "been a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy."

Progressive groups including MoveOn had urged Biden to tap Kanter to be assistant attorney general for the antitrust division at the DOJ, Politico reported Tuesday, "because of his work over the past decade representing companies, including Microsoft, that lodged antitrust complaints about Google."

"His advocacy on the issue helped spur four recent antitrust cases against the search giant over its power in online search and advertising," the outlet reported. The New York Times also noted that in

recent years, Mr. Kanter built an unusual practice out of criticizing the tech giants from inside Washington's corporate law firms. The tech giants have become lucrative clients for major law firms, often making it difficult for those firms to work for their opponents.

But last year, he left Paul, Weiss—an elite corporate litigation firm—because his portfolio representing critics of the tech giants conflicted with other work the firm was doing.

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chair of the House antitrust panel, pointed to Kanter's previous antitrust work in a statement applauding Biden's pick.

Kanter "has been a strong advocate for strengthening antitrust enforcement and promoting competition throughout the U.S. economy," Nadler and Cicilline said. "Make no mistake, Kanter is absolutely the right person for this job at this moment."

"Make no mistake, Kanter is absolutely the right person for this job at this moment."

Praise came in from outside antitrust experts as well. Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout called Kanter "an extraordinary choice" for the post, while Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy director at Public Knowledge, said that the "public needs an assistant attorney general with both strong legal know-how and the requisite boldness to challenge gatekeepers and consolidated markets, including broadband providers and digital platforms." 

"Jonathan Kanter fits that bill," she said.

According to Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, Kanter is a "formidable attorney" who's "devoted his career to reinvigorating antitrust enforcement."

"He has crafted many of the most successful legal arguments driving the major antitrust investigations into Big Tech," said Miller, "and he is widely respected on both sides of the aisle in Congress and in the legal community.”

The loud plaudits from monopoly critics were in part because Kanter represents "the final piece of the trifecta that progressives have championed to reinvigorate antitrust enforcement after the alleged failures of the Obama years," as Politico put it.

That's in reference to Biden's naming of Columbia Law School professors Tim Wu and Lina Khan to respective seats on the National Economic Council and the Federal Trade Commission.

“With Lina Khan at the Federal Trade Commission, Tim Wu on the National Economic Council, and dozens of other strong leaders in departments and agencies throughout the Biden administration, Jonathan Kanter’s nomination to lead the antitrust division spells the end of the era of unaccountable monopoly power in America," said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute.

Jayapal, who's chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement Tuesday that Kanter, if confirmed by the Senate, would join Wu and Khan—as well as FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who Biden picked to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—and "enable Congress to reassert our power and to write the next critically important chapter of antitrust law."

“We are at a critical moment in the fight against corporate consolidation," the CPC chair said, adding that it's "time to finally hold all corporate monopolies, including Big Tech, accountable."

 


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