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Tags: trump | antitrust | chief | big companies | makan delrahim

Trump's Antitrust Chief: We Want Big Companies to Behave Properly

Gearstd | Dreamstime.com

Tuesday, 13 November 2018 12:11 PM EST

Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's antitrust division, said the government’s intention is to make sure companies behave properly when they grow into industry titans.

“One of our roles in the antitrust law is to make sure that when companies get big – and we have no problem with companies being big — we want to make sure they behave properly," Delrahim told CNBC. "To make sure the markets are open, new entrants enter in and new competitors and ultimately consumers and businesses will benefit from that,” he said.

As an example, Delrahim said evidence drove the division’s decision-making rather than pressure from the president, who recently tweeted that he supported an antitrust probe of Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), Reuters reported.

Delrahim was asked about President Donald Trump’s attacks on companies like Comcast and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), alleging that they break antitrust law.

“As far as what we do in our enforcement — we need the evidence, we need the economics, (before) we go to court. Politics that goes on between various aspects of the government don’t affect our decisions to make these cases,” Delrahim said.

The DOJ’s Antitrust Division can't order the halting of a merger or breaking up of a company, but must convince a judge that such an action is needed. The department failed this year to convince a federal judge to stop AT&T’s merger with Time Warner and is appealing that loss, Reuters explained.

Delrahim said the division was “vigilant” in monitoring Comcast since a consent decree expired that governed its purchase with NBC Universal.

Trump tweeted support on Monday for the American Cable Association’s call for an investigation into Comcast. “They say that Comcast routinely violates Antitrust Laws,” he wrote.

Delrahim said concern over Amazon was “bipartisan,” but added that the fact that a company was big and powerful did not mean that it broke antitrust law.

Trump had tweeted about his unhappiness with Amazon in July, saying: “In my opinion the Washington Post is nothing more than an expensive lobbyist for Amazon.” Amazon chief Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post.

Delrahim also said he doesn’t see any direct link between business and the distortion of the democratic process.

“We have to be vigilant. That's why the antitrust laws were enacted in the first place, to make sure that no single company or any group of companies have an inordinate amount of power that affects our lives,” he said.

Delrahim did stress there has been quite a bit of debate about the interpretation of what that actually means. “Are they touching every aspect of our lives? Should they be this big? Should the government step in and somehow regulate their growth?” he asked.

“We have to be careful. We’re just there to police the markets. We're not picking winners and losers. We are not trying to choose which technologies — frankly, we're just not smart enough to be doing that. All we can do is make sure that markets are free for new entrants to come in and topple the old ones,” he said.

Delrahim seemed unfazed by the unusually high level of attention paid to the work of his division.

“I think it’s great that we have such a debate about free markets. And the antitrust laws (are) there to protect the free markets,” he said.

Delrahim also said he didn’t see innovation being stymied by industry giants, who can presumably prevent capital flowing to new ideas because nobody wants to get into business to compete with them.

“Silicon Valley and the venture capital world, in this country particularly, is alive and well. You're having new companies pop up every now and then. But that's what we do. Antitrust laws need to be there to make sure that they do not prevent the next competitor to come in,” he said.

“That was exactly what the Justice Department did in Microsoft 20 years ago. And a lot of people were worried about the power Microsoft had, particularly when they were trying to suffocate the internet browser, because it was challenging their monopoly power in the operating system. That case problably led to a lot of the innovations we’re seeing today.”

He took any present, past and future court challenges in stride.

“Those are good challenges and checks and balances on our powers. We go to the court system. We have to prove our case. We have to prove it with good, strong evidence. We also have to prove it with sound economics. And over the last 30, 40 years, we've had pretty strong and bipartisan consensus on what the balance, and the right balance for antitrust enforcement is. Now, are there areas that, you know — do we wish to go a different way? Are there cases we lose? Absolutely.”

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Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's antitrust division, said the government's intention is to make sure companies behave properly when they grow into industry titans.
trump, antitrust, chief, big companies, makan delrahim
Tuesday, 13 November 2018 12:11 PM
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