(United Airlines, whose merger with Continental was approved during Varney’s tenure, is another Cravath client.) Obama’s last Do J antitrust chief, Renata Hesse, now at the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, was a lead advisor for Amazon in its takeover of Whole Foods.
Perhaps the most damning case is Obama’s FTC chair Jon Leibowitz, who was criticized for his agency’s leniency towards Google—a company on intimate terms with the Obama White House.
Worse than the breach itself, Facebook apparently knew about this data-harvesting for years, and in fact, according to another whistleblower who worked at the social media giant itself (Guardian, 3/20/18), had a policy of allowing developers to gather user data by linking apps with Facebook logins, as Cambridge Analytica did through its partnership with Kogan and his survey app.
A casual observer might think the Trump administration has broken this trend and taken a hard line against corporate consolidation.
AT&T’s bid to merge with Time Warner was blocked by the Justice Department on the grounds that AT&T, an internet service provider, could choose to favor media content owned by Time Warner—like its properties CNN, TNT and HBO—over that of its competitors, and ultimately increase prices for consumers.
While Obama did block some consolidation efforts, including the mergers of AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as that of Comcast and Time Warner, many large media and technology mergers and acquisitions during the Obama years have resulted in corporate behemoths with the power to stifle innovation, discourage competition and increase prices.
These mergers and acquisitions include Comcast and NBC Universal, AT&T and Direc TV, Charter and Time Warner Cable, Facebook and Instagram, Facebook and Whats App, Microsoft and Linked In, and Live Nation and Ticketmaster, among many others.
One sign of a dysfunctional antitrust system is the revolving door for agency heads, civil servants and government officials who go to work for companies that they formerly regulated (or failed to regulate), either working for them directly or working for the large private law firms that represent them.
An egregious example is Obama’s first Do J antitrust chief, Christine Varney, who now works for Cravath, Swaine & Moore, the law firm representing Time Warner in the AT&T merger lawsuit.Waves of consolidation in the technology, telecom and entertainment industries have concentrated power over media content and delivery into just a handful of companies.Today, there are only a few dominant players in each industry: While these companies have vertically integrated themselves to staggering degrees in their industries, what’s worse is the increasing pace at which they have sought to consolidate horizontally across sectors.His FCC has facilitated the continued consolidation of the majority of local television and radio affiliates under Sinclair Broadcasting (FAIR.org, 5/8/17), a conservative media conglomerate with closeties to the Trump administration that has been steadily increasing its share of local media markets since 2004.Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s record on antitrust doesn’t look much different.Or why the Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO (and world’s richest billionaire) Jeff Bezos, publishes puff pieces on the supposed benefits Amazon’s new headquarters could provide to potential locations.