Corporate America unloads on Biden’s newly active business watchdogs

FILE PHOTO: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing in Washington
FILE PHOTO: FTC Commissioner nominee Lina M. Khan testifies during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on the nomination of Former Senator Bill Nelson to be NASA administrator, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

November 20, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Corporate America mounted fresh attacks on Friday on President Joe Biden’s antitrust enforcers who have vowed to rein in anticompetitive practices and vigorously investigate corporate crime.

The Chamber of Commerce wrote three letters and filed more than 30 Freedom of Information Act requests about what it said were Federal Trade Commission failures to strictly follow rules and giving in to political interference.

The FTC defended itself, saying it would not change course despite criticism from the big business lobby group about a series of actions spearheaded by FTC Chair Lina Khan.

Also Friday, Alphabet Inc’s Google asked the U.S. Justice Department to consider requiring Jonathan Kanter, the newly confirmed head of the department’s Antitrust Division, to recuse himself from matters related to the search and advertising giant because of his work for a long list of Google critics.

Kanter had worked for such Google critics as Yelp, which the letter described as “vociferously advocating for an antitrust case against Google for years.”

The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google last year and is believed to be preparing a second focused on the company’s dominance of online advertising.

The Chamber of Commerce said it was particularly concerned about votes cast by Commissioner Rohit Chopra before he left the FTC but which were announced after his departure. He now heads the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The chamber expressed concern about what it said was White House interference in FTC decision-making and the agency’s decision to use civil penalty authority.

The FTC said it would not change direction.

“The FTC just announced we are ramping up efforts to combat corporate crime and now the chamber declares ‘war’ on the agency. We are not going to back down because corporate lobbyists are making threats,” said FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan.

The agency has filed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of breaking antitrust law, tightened some merger reviews, been asked to probe high gasoline prices, and is considering a study to probe the role of competition in supply chain disruptions.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Edmund Blair and Leslie Adler)