US dealmaking braces for more challenging antitrust environment

After campaigning for the presidency on a platform that included more aggressive antitrust enforcement, Joe Biden has taken early steps to honor those pledges

President Joe Biden has made antitrust enforcement a policy priority for his administration, with stricter oversight of the US’s large technology companies among his policy priorities.

Biden named Lina Khan, an antitrust academic and prominent critic of Big Tech, as Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair and appointed Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor and also a Big Tech critic, to the National Economic Council as a special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy.

A proactive approach

These appointments signal the White House's intention to take a more proactive approach to antitrust enforcement, with a focus on the technology sector.

Tighter scrutiny of the technology industry is an issue that precedes the Biden administration, with the Department of Justice and FTC launching antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook during the Trump administration. These efforts are expected to continue, and may see the scope expanded, under the Biden administration.

Legislative changes

In addition to the Biden administration's appointments, Congress is considering five antitrust bills with bipartisan support that could lead to additional scrutiny of larger technology businesses.

These legislative efforts are still nascent and should be watched carefully as they develop, both for their focus on merger enforcement and on practices by businesses deemed to be dominant.

Slow but certain impact

Many of these initiatives from the White House and Congress may take time for the impact to be felt, but the scrutiny on technology transactions will likely be more immediate, adding complexities for technology companies considering transactions in this new environment of enhanced enforcement.

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