US Senate confirms Google critic as Department of Justice antitrust chief

Move signals more aggressive antitrust agenda for Biden White House

The US Senate on has confirmed Jonathan Kanter to run the Justice Department’s antitrust division, finalising the Biden administration’s slate of leaders to police competition and combat rising concentration across the economy.

Senators on Tuesday evening approved Mr Kanter as an assistant attorney general on a 68-29 vote.

President Joe Biden nominated Mr Kanter in July at the urging of advocates for a more aggressive antitrust agenda, particularly against US technology companies.

He will join Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, whom Mr Biden named to run that agency in June, as the face of competition enforcement in the US.

The same month he nominated Mr Kanter, Mr Biden announced a governmentwide effort to encourage competition across industries.

He faulted increased consolidation for rising prices and lower wages for workers, and pitched his competition agenda as a way to bolster economic growth and innovation.

Mr Kanter will take over at the Justice Department as it presses forward with a monopoly lawsuit against Google, filed during the administration of former president Donald Trump.

The case accuses Google of abusing its dominance in internet search. The antitrust division is also preparing another complaint against the company over its digital advertising business and has stepped up a probe into Apple.

After leaving Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Mr Kanter was a lawyer for companies like Microsoft, Yelp and News Corp, which advocated antitrust enforcement against Google.

In addition to the Google case, the Justice Department has merger lawsuits pending against publisher Penguin Random House’s deal to buy Simon & Schuster and an alliance between American Airlines Group and JetBlue Airways that the government says is a de facto merger of the carriers’ operations in New York and Boston.

At his confirmation hearing in October, Mr Kanter told senators that, if confirmed, he would enact a “vigorous and comprehensive antitrust programme that protects workers from anticompetitive abuses".

Updated: November 17th 2021, 12:16 AM
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