“A Judge, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion.” But it seems that Biden couldn’t care less for this pearl of wisdom. At least, the US President-elect’s latest antitrust appointment proposals suggest so. Biden is looking at some names for heading the antitrust division at the US Department of Justice. The job is big, given the active cases pending against big tech companies like Google and Facebook.
So, if you have to investigate anti-monopoly cases against big tech entities such as Google and Facebook, who would you appoint? An attorney who doesn’t have anything to do with the big tech, right? You know, someone who is like Caesar’s wife. But it is Biden we are talking about. He is reportedly considering an attorney who has past experience of working on behalf of consolidation, and another one who has advised Google and Amazon in the past. So, insiders at Big Tech, now planted by Big Tech into the political system, will decide how to hold Big Tech responsible.
We are talking about Renata Hesse. She is a former Justice Department official under President Barack Obama. Hesse had even worked along with Sen. Ted Cruz defending Google a decade ago. Not just Google, she also advised Amazon during the acquisition of grocery chain Whole Foods that was valued at more than $13 billion.
As per Reuters, sources said that Biden choosing her to play a role could pose a conflict of interest issues as the Justice Department pursues a historically crucial case against Google. In October last year, the US Justice Department had sued Google, accusing the global tech leader of dominating search and advertising.
Another front-runner for the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust position in the upcoming Biden administration, Juan Arteaga, is also an ex-Justice Department official in the Obama administration. He has experience in defending JPMorgan Chase and other big financial firms in fraud cases. He also represented AT&T in its merger with Time Warner.
Big tech critics are particularly worked up about Hesse’s work experience with big tech companies. But Arteaga’s track record of working on behalf of consolidation is also described by The Intercept as “alarming“.
Everyone knows what the problems with big tech are. From privacy concerns to lack of transparency about community guidelines, and monopolistic practices, there are many issues to be investigated. There is also a trust deficit between the US government and big tech. Democrat lawmakers have criticised big tech’s ‘Monopoly Power’ in the past.
However, we are hardly surprised with Biden’s choices for the antitrust head position at the US Justice Department. Former US President Barack Obama owes much of his popularity to big tech and Google in particular. In fact, of the mammoth 16 million US dollars spent by Obama on online advertising during his election campaign, 7.5 million US dollars went to Google. For Obama’s challenger, it was an asymmetrical election.
During Obama’s reign from 2008 to 2016, big tech became extraordinarily powerful. It is doubted that big tech has a lot of influence in American political circles. And Biden’s appointments might just confirm them.