Exclusive: White House Order Pushes Antitrust Enforcement Across U.S. Economy

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) – The White House is working on an antitrust decree that aims to push government agencies to think about the impact of their decisions on competition in an industry, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The order is attacking corporate monopolies in a wide range of industries from banking to airlines, one of the sources said.

The move comes as House lawmakers are pushing ahead with sweeping antitrust legislation aimed at curtailing the power of big tech companies like Facebook Inc (FB.O), Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) Google, Amazon. com Inc (AMZN.O) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and avoid business consolidation.

It wasn’t immediately clear how such an ordinance would aid these efforts on Capitol Hill and curb the power of big tech companies that have thrived for years without much regulation.

One of the sources called the order “well developed” and said it was based on a 2016 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Both sources said it was being worked on by former Obama administration officials who now work for President Joe Biden.

The sources said no decision has been made on when or when the order will be released.

White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons did not comment on specific details, but said the president made it clear during his campaign that he was determined to increase competition in the U.S. economy, including banning non-competition agreements for workers and protecting farmers from abusive practices.

“There is no final decision on any action at this time,” she said.

Former President Barack Obama’s administration issued a similar ordinance in 2016 that pushed executive agencies to promote competition, but failed to shake things up. The Biden order includes details of how specific government agencies should review agreements and competition in industries, one of the sources said.

The White House recently appointed antitrust reform advocates to key positions. Earlier this month, Biden named Lina Khan, a leading Big Tech critic, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

This follows the appointment of Tim Wu, a vocal critic of Google, Facebook and Amazon, as the president’s special assistant on competition policy.

Biden, a Democrat, has yet to nominate someone to head the Justice Department’s antitrust division and is reportedly considering Jon Sallet and Jonathan Kanter, both involved in the fight against Google.

Pressure from Democrats to tackle the monopoly power of big tech companies is nothing new. The House antitrust subcommittee last year released a scathing report on the tech industry after a 16-month investigation, saying Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were engaged in various monopoly behaviors.

Big tech companies, in particular, face similar challenges to their power in the world, including antitrust investigations in Europe and new legislation in Australia and India to restrict their power.

The companies denied that their business practices hurt competition and consumers.

Reporting by Nandita Bose and Diane Bartz in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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