Mar 22, 2024 - Technology

What to know about Jonathan Kanter, the DOJ antitrust chief taking on Apple

Jonathan Kanter speaks during a press conference

Jonathan Kanter speaks during a press conference at the Justice Department on March 21. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Justice Department antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter is spearheading several of the most consequential efforts to break up corporate power in the U.S.

Why it matters: Kanter is at the center of the Biden administration's broader push to promote competition in the U.S. market. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) antitrust lawsuits that he is leading against Google and Apple could reshape the future of big tech.

  • "Competition on the merits is good for everybody. It's good for businesses. It's good for consumers. It's good for the economy. And so ultimately, that is what this lawsuit is about," he said of the Apple lawsuit in a CNBC interview on Friday. "It's about making the market more competitive so that people can pay lower prices, including for their iPhones."

Here's what to know about him.

What is Jonathan Kanter's background?

Kanter, 50, was raised in Queens, New York, per the New York Times.

  • He got his bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Albany before attending law school at Washington University in St. Louis, according to his DOJ biography.
  • After starting his career at the Federal Trade Commission, Kanter went on to work at several large law firms, where he represented major corporations like Microsoft, per his bio.
  • He then started his own law firm that was "dedicated to promoting antitrust enforcement," per his biography.
  • Biden nominated Kanter as the DOJ's assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division in 2021. The Senate confirmed him in a 68-29 vote.

What are Kanter's views on competition?

During his Senate confirmation hearing in 2021, Kanter vowed to pursue "vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws."

  • Kanter has said that his previous work for companies like Microsoft and Yelp helped him see the dangers of economic power, the Times reported.
  • "We want folks duking it out and competing in a very vibrant, full-throated way. ... A competitive economy is one that provides opportunity. It's one that is consistent with the values of a free and open democracy," Kanter told The Verge's Decoder podcast last month.

What antitrust cases has Kanter been involved in?

In addition to the new case against Apple, Kanter has been apart of other high-profile antitrust lawsuits against major corporations.

  • Upon becoming the Justice Department's antitrust chief, Kanter inherited the department's antitrust case against Google over the tech giant's dominance of internet searches.
  • The Justice Department also has another case against Google over its advertising technology.

Kanter's team has also challenged a number of proposed corporate mergers.

Our thought bubble, from Axios tech and policy reporter Ashley Gold: Kanter is a bold official trying to shake up the ways antitrust applies to digital markets.

  • Whether his legacy will simply be changing how people think about competition or actually winning cases is yet to be determined.

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Editor's note: This story was updated with comments Kanter made in a CNBC interview.

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