A top DOJ official just outlined why the agency has everything it needs to go after Big Tech — and Facebook, Google, and Amazon should be nervous (AAPL, GOOGL, FB, AMZN)

Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division nominee Makan Delrahim testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

  • The nation’s antitrust
    laws provide enforcement officials with all the tools they need to
    promote competition in the tech industry, Assistant Attorney
    General Makan Delrahim said Tuesday.
  • Delrahim made the comments as the Department
    of Justice
    and the
    Federal Trade Commission
    are beginning to scrutinize Apple,
    Alphabet,
    Facebook,
    and Amazon.
  • He also defended the DOJ against the charge that it focuses too
    much on consumer prices in weighing the effects of companies’
    market power, acknowledging there can be other harms.
  • Delrahim’s comments come as his own role in the investigating
    the tech companies has come under scrutiny.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

Makan Delharim thinks the current legal code is more than
sufficient to safeguard competition in the tech industry.

As federal enforcement officials begin to probe Alphabet,
Apple,
Facebook,
and Amazon over
potential antitrust violations, some policymakers and legal experts
have questioned whether new laws are needed to rein in the
companies. But in a
speech
at a conference in Tel Aviv Israel Tuesday, Makan, the
top antitrust official in the Justice Department, made clear he’s
not among them.

“We already have in our possession the tools we need to enforce
the antitrust laws in cases involving digital technologies,” Makan,
an assistant attorney general, said in the speech, which
CNBC previously reported
. “US antitrust law is flexible enough
to be applied to markets old and new.”

Pointing to the government’s case 20 years ago against Microsoft
and the nation’s long history of challenging the power of dominant
companies, he added: “Those who say we need new or amended
antitrust laws to address monopoly concerns should look to history
and take heart.”

Debate has been growing over what, if anything, policymakers
should do about the power wielded by the big-tech companies. Google
parent Alphabet has
already been fined by European regulators three times
for
anti-competitive actions. Apple
just lost a decision
at the US Supreme Court in an antitrust
case and is the subject of a
formal antitrust complaint in Europe made by Spotify
. Facebook
has drawn intense scrutiny for all the data it’s collected on its
billions of users and the ways in which its immense social network
has been hijacked to widely spread propaganda.

Antitrust laws are old but adequate

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that the DOJ
and the Federal Trade Commission have
divvied up oversight over the four biggest tech companies
, with
the DOJ looking at Apple and Alphabet and the FTC taking on Amazon
and Facebook.

But some antitrust experts and other policymakers have argued
that new laws are needed to control the companies. Senator
Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, has
called for legislation
that would classify as “utilities” any
tech company with more than $25 billion in revenue that runs a
marketplace or has its own platform. It would also bar those tech
utilities from owning companies that participate on their
service.

The US has two major antitrust laws — the Sherman Antitrust
Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act. Both are more than 100 years old
and were written in an earlier era of monopolies, but in Delrahim’s
view, they are robust enough to handle any of today’s problems.

“Through their general wording, and their focus on competitive
process and consumer welfare, the antitrust laws allow US courts to
continue to apply legal principles and sound economic reasoning to
identify harmful practices that the antitrust laws should prevent,”
he said.

Read this:
Top antitrust enforcer at DOJ reveals 3 ways the agency could make
a case against big tech companies like Google and Apple

The DOJ is concerned with more than just prices

In recent years, many antitrust experts on the left have charged
that the courts and enforcement regulators have paid too much
attention to consumer prices when it comes to evaluating the impact
of a company’s dominance over a particular market or potential
mergers. But Delrahim pushed back against that view.

The DOJ recognizes that monopolies sometimes lower prices and
that limited competition can have harms other than just increased
consumer costs, he said. Innovation and quality can also be
hampered when companies have too much power or too few rivals to
keep them honest.

“The Antitrust Division does not take a myopic view of
competition,” Delrahim said. “It is well-settled … that
competition has price and non-price dimensions,” he continued.

But as the DOJ ramps of its probe of Alphabet and Apple,
Delrahim himself is now facing criticism. Warren on Tuesday called
for him to recuse himself from any investigations into the two
companies, because of lobbying work he did for them. Delrahim
lobbied on Google’s behalf in 2007 for its acquisition of
DoubleClick and on Apple’s behalf in 2006 and 2007 on patent
issues.

“Your past work as a lobbyist for two of the largest and most
scrutinized tech companies in the world creates the appearance of
conflict of interest,” Warren said in
a letter to Delrahim
, which was
previously reported by The Verge
. “As the head of the antitrust
division at the DOJ, you should not be supervising investigations
into former clients who paid you tens of thousands of dollars to
lobby the federal government.”

Got a tip about the tech industry? Contact this
reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him
on Twitter @troywolv,
or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You
can also
contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop
.

SEE ALSO: Here’s
why the failed attempt to break up Microsoft will make or break the
crackdown on Facebook, Amazon, and Google, according to 2 top
lawyers in the Microsoft case


Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH:
I switched from the $1,099 iPhone XS Max to the $479 Pixel 3a XL
— and I didn’t miss much

Source: FS – All – Economy – News
A top DOJ official just outlined why the agency has everything it needs to go after Big Tech — and Facebook, Google, and Amazon should be nervous (AAPL, GOOGL, FB, AMZN)