Jun 3, 2021

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1 big thing: Splits inside parties raise new antitrust hurdles

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Divisions within party caucuses, particularly Republicans, are emerging as a new threat to Congressional action against alleged monopolistic behavior by tech giants, Axios' Ashley Gold and Margaret Harding McGill report.

Why it matters: It's a blow to the longstanding theory that a bitterly divided Congress could still agree to tighten the antitrust screws on Big Tech, since both sides have beefs with the industry.

What's happening: Key Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee disagree over whether to work with the majority party on antitrust legislation. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) is more willing to work with Democrats than Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

  • Jordan has said he wants to break up Big Tech and change Section 230, the law that largely shields companies from what users post, over accusations of anti-conservative bias. He has sponsored Republican legislation that would consolidate antitrust enforcement within the Justice Department, but hasn't said what new antitrust measures he'd support, if any.
  • Buck has worked in tandem with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who as antitrust chairman has led the committee's Big Tech work.

What they're saying: "Mr. Jordan has repeatedly said that everything is on the table when it comes to holding Big Tech accountable," Russell Dye, communications director for Jordan and House Judiciary Republicans, told Axios in a statement, noting that Democrats have yet to introduce new, major antitrust bills.

  • Dye said Republicans are united against Big Tech but wary of the Democrats' approach on antitrust. "Anyone trusting the Democrats to protect conservative speech on the internet is not living in reality," he said.
  • Buck's communications director Alexa Vance said he is "focused on finding bipartisan solutions" to anticompetitive behavior in tech and has "a good working relationship" with Jordan.

Some Republicans worry that pairing up with Democrats on this issue won't ultimately serve their interests.

  • "There are some Republican members that are concerned with any proposal that might give the Biden government more authority to harass businesses along ideological lines," Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy for the Conservative Partnership Institute, told Axios.

The big picture: Committees in both the House and Senate are working toward antitrust bill packages that would reset many of the ground rules for Big Tech's acquisitions, platform control and other practices in the U.S.

  • Last fall, a House Judiciary antitrust investigation into digital markets lead to multiple reports recommending tough action against tech.
  • The Democrats' version received no Republican backing. Republicans split their support between one report authored by Buck, the ranking Republican of the antitrust subcommittee, and one from Jordan, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary committee.

The other side: Ultimately, Democrats may be able to pass antitrust legislation without Republican support, if they have their entire caucus on board. But divisions exist among Democrats as well.

  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) released her own views on the Democratic majority report (which she voted to advance out of committee), arguing enforcement agencies and courts should have a bigger role in antitrust than Congress.

What to watch: For the Republicans, efforts won't take off without the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has harshly criticized tech companies and accused them of conservative bias.

2. Microsoft sets new Windows unveil for June 24
A screenshot of an invitation sent to reporters Wednesday. Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is set to share details June 24 on the biggest update to its Windows operating system in years.

Why it matters: Both Chromebook and Apple's Macintosh have gained ground in recent years as Microsoft has made only modest updates to Windows 10.

Driving the news:

  • The event will be an online one, featuring CEO Satya Nadella and product chief Panos Panay.
  • Nadella teased the new version at last week's Build conference and in an Axios interview, but offered no details.

Between the lines: This appears to be one of the bigger Windows updates, with changes expected not only to the way Windows looks and works, but to how Microsoft charges for it.

Here is a look at what other recent updates brought to Windows:

  • Windows 7 (2009): Addressed the critiques of Windows Vista while improving on the major under-the-hood changes it had made over the still widely used Windows XP.
  • Windows 8 (2012): Attempted to bring a more mobile-like interface, including broader touch support, also added the Windows Store as a new way to purchase apps.
  • Windows 10 (2015): Brought together the Windows 7 and Windows 8 experiences and introduced the notion of Windows as a service rather than as a piece of software with distinct releases.
3. Scoop: LinkedIn to pay employee group leaders

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

LinkedIn will begin paying the global co-chairs of its employee resource groups $10,000 a year starting in July, Axios' Hope King scooped on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Diversity and inclusion has been a huge focus for companies during the past year, with hiring within D&I roles growing more than 90%. However, employee and affinity groups are most often run on a volunteer basis with limited financial support for their efforts.

What they're saying: "Historically, these employees take on leadership roles and the associated work in addition to their day jobs, putting in extra time, energy, and insight. And despite the tremendous value, visibility and impact to the organization, this work is rarely rewarded financially," Teuila Hanson, chief people officer at LinkedIn, says.

How it works: Global ERG co-chairs at LinkedIn serve two-year terms and will receive $10,000 at the end of each year of service.

  • The company has 10 ERGs with 20 global co-chairs and more than 5,000 members and allies. More than 500 leaders will also be recognized in a new non-financial rewards system, the company says.
  • LinkedIn says it realizes there is "no price on the emotional labor and investment of time" ERGs contribute and that $10,000 is a start, in addition to a formal systematized recognition plan.
  • This is an independent program within LinkedIn for now, the company said when asked if it would expand inside Microsoft.

Joining the club: Two others companies that have also started to compensate ERG leads within the past year are Twitter and Justworks.

4. How a pandemic gave SAP a chance to shine

SAP may be a software giant, but people generally don't get too excited about programs that help businesses manage their operations and keep tabs on suppliers.

That changed during the pandemic, though, as strained supply chains meant scarce toilet paper or delays in life-saving vaccines.

  • "Because of COVID, some of the the things that SAP does have come to the forefront," says Julia White, the former Microsoft executive who now serves as SAP's marketing chief.

There may be flashier software companies, but White says, "SAP does the really hard, complicated work."

Between the lines: SAP has been in the midst of a transformation, growing itself through acquisition and looking to take advantage of shifts like cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

White joined SAP in March, aiming to help the company show both what's changing and what's staying the same.

  • "I always think legacy is a strength if used well. We're known. We're trusted."

White, who is based in Seattle, notes that the company has more employees in the U.S. than it does in Germany. Indeed, White only got to meet many of her colleagues in person last week after she finally was able to travel to Germany.

  • Fortunately, she notes SAP has an office in Bellevue, Washington, that White says is "literally across the street from where I was at Microsoft."
5. Take note

On Tap

  • Earnings reports include a trio of business tech companies: Slack, MongoDB and Asana.

Trading Places

  • David Wadhwani, who led Adobe's digital media business from 2010 to 2015, is returning to the company as an executive VP, again leading that unit, which includes Adobe's Creative Cloud and Document Cloud businesses.

ICYMI

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