A recent report from Democratic congressional lawmakers concludes that four United States tech companies—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—have engaged in anticompetitive conduct to obtain monopoly power in their respective fields. Specifically, Amazon dominates the online retail market, Apple dominates the mobile operating system market, Facebook dominates social media, and Google dominates online search and advertising. As the report notes, “[these] companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.”
The 400-plus page report outlines the techniques each company has employed in the past two decades to obtain monopoly power, often with little scrutiny from government enforcers. One such technique is what the report describes as “killer acquisitions”—the purchase of “nascent or potential competitors to neutralize a competitive threat or to maintain and expand the firm’s dominance.” For example, the report notes that Facebook has acquired nearly 100 companies, but “the Federal Trade Commission engaged in an extensive investigation of just one acquisition: Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012.” The report claims that “antitrust agencies failed, at key occasions, to stop monopolists from rolling up their competitors and failed to protect the American people from abuses of monopoly power.”
The report offers broad policy objectives rather than concrete legislative proposals; but does suggest tighter regulation is coming soon. The report calls upon Congress to “revive its tradition of robust oversight over the antitrust laws and increased market concentration in our economy.”
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About David Calvello
David Calvello is a Senior Associate in Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP's New York office. He mainly practices in the area of antitrust litigation with a focus on competition in the pharmaceutical industry. He has worked on multiple cases that resulted in significant settlements, including In re Lidoderm Antitrust Litigation, 14-md-02521 (N.D. Cal.) ($166M settlement) and In re Solodyn Antitrust Litigation, 14-md-02503 (D. Mass.) ($76M settlement).