Jun 26, 2018

DOJ antitrust official: Supreme Court ruling won't shield Big Tech

Justice Department Antitrust chief Makan Delrahim. Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

The top antitrust lawyer at the Department of Justice said Tuesday that he doesn't think a Supreme Court ruling earlier this week would make it more difficult to take on the biggest online platforms over competition concerns.

Why it matters: Critics of large tech companies worry the ruling in a case concerning credit card providers might offer Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber protection from antitrust prosecution because they use so-called two-sided marketplaces to connect parties, such as buyers and sellers.

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said he saw the ruling as a "sound decision" overall.

""I was more worried the Supreme Court would come up with a test [that would] cause harm to new business models like Uber and Airbnb," he said, saying that would have been a greater hardship to the economy than just losing this case.

Impact on Big Tech: Responding to a question from Axios, Delrahim said he didn't think the ruling would make it harder to go after Facebook and Google over competition concerns "for a couple of reasons."

First, he said, each case is specific to the facts. Second, the ruling doesn't treat all two-sided marketplaces alike. While it might help protect Uber and Airbnb, which directly connect two parties, Delrahim said he wasn't sure that Google and Facebook would see their businesses similarly affected.

Other companies, like Amazon, might find some parts of their business protected and others not.

"I think to the extent that it creates that transaction and you bring in third party sellers and buyers, they could benefit from that, but not in other areas of their business," he said.

Yes, but: Delrahim did say he thought that the ruling could limit antitrust enforcers' ability to take on Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, but would not protect the companies in the case of criminal behavior, like price fixing.

The backdrop: The court ruled that, when considering an antitrust case involving some two-sided markets, authorities need to weigh whether there is competitive harm on all sides of the market. Allegedly anticompetitive behavior on one side of a business model wouldn't be actionable in some cases, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the court's opinion, if the whole picture wasn't anticompetitive.

Go deeper: We broke down the ruling this morning.

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World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 13 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 704,095 — Total deaths: 33,509 — Total recoveries: 148,824.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 132,637 — Total deaths: 2,351 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked" people
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reported 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reported almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Cuomo: Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked people"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Sunday that President Trump's unexpected Saturday announcement of a possible "short-term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut to curb the spread of the coronavirus "really panicked people."

Why it matters: Though Trump ruled out the mandatory quarantine later that day, Cuomo said people still called "all night long" asking about the comments and many likely fled the New York area — possibly spreading the virus further.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Health