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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The antitrust noose is continuing to tighten around Big Tech, with some bankers saying that the pressure is impacting deal-making.

Driving the news: Lina Khan, a law professor who famously argued for breaking up Amazon, tomorrow will get a Senate confirmation hearing to become an FTC commissioner.

  • The House Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats, last week passed its tech antitrust report, setting the stage for legislation.
  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) last week unveiled his own trust-busting proposal, while Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee are circulating a staff memo outlining their ideas for tech accountability.

Selection bias: Most of the D.C. antitrust focus, including formal investigations by the FTC and DOJ, is on four companies: Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

  • No member of that quartet has put a blanket hold on M&A. But they've been noticeably sluggish, particularly given their heaving cash piles and near record-high stock prices.
  • The last sizable purchase was five months ago, when Facebook agreed to pay $1 billion for Kustomer.
  • "They're scared and are pretty much telling us that they'd rather not risk a long regulatory fight," says an M&A advisor who recently had a client's tires kicked by one of the Big 4.

Be smart: Other Big Tech companies are taking advantage of their time outside of the spotlight.

  • The best example of this is Microsoft, as evidenced by its recent megadeal for Nuance, its reported pursuit of both Discord and Pinterest and its public jabs at Google.
  • Microsoft has a larger market cap than any U.S. tech company outside of Apple, but D.C. seems to believe it's already taken enough antitrust lumps to last its lifetime.
  • Or look at Twitter, which apparently felt secure enough to pitch Clubhouse on an acquisition. Or Salesforce buying Slack.

The bottom line: Until legislators and regulators resolve what they want to do about Big Tech, beyond throwing rhetorical barbs, some of the largest potential acquirers are being relegated to the sidelines.

Go deeper

The ascent of Lina Khan, tech antitrust icon

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: An Rong Xu/Washington Post via Getty Images

A Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday for Lina Khan's appointment to a commissioner's seat on the Federal Trade Commission will mark a watershed moment in federal efforts to rein in big tech companies.

Why it matters: Khan, who has helped define broad new ways to think about how antitrust law should apply to modern technology companies, has had temporary government roles before. But a seat on the FTC, which has the power to investigate and sue companies, would put her at the center of D.C.'s regulatory action.

Apr 19, 2021 - Technology

States court tech money even as they bash companies

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Some of the country's fastest-growing states are publicly attacking the tech industry's business practices on one hand while courting its investment on the other.

Why it matters: Attracting technology companies is a holy grail for economic development because they bring high-paying jobs and prestige to aspiring tech hubs. But that project is now colliding with some state leaders' efforts to rein in tech companies' growing power.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Apr 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Amazon renewables rollout highlights corporate climate push

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Amazon Monday morning announced investments in several new utility-scale wind and solar projects and said it's now Europe's largest corporate renewable power buyer.

The big picture: Look for a burst of corporate clean energy and climate pledges this week as companies hope to show their bona fides alongside this week's White House global climate summit and Earth Day.