The threat level rose for Big Tech in Washington over the weekend, as U.S. antitrust regulators reportedly took steps toward greater scrutiny for Google and Amazon.
Why it matters: These moves could set the table for the kind of long-running antitrust cases that can sap company resources, result in embarrassing legal discovery and depositions, and, in the most extreme scenarios, lead to corporate breakups.
- The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission have agreed to split up efforts to investigate charges of monopolistic practices by Google and Amazon. DOJ got Google, FTC got Amazon, per the Washington Post and Bloomberg.
- DOJ is preparing to launch an investigation into some of Google's practices, per the Wall Street Journal.
Between the lines: It's not uncommon for the agencies to negotiate over who gets to vet which companies and markets, and the move might be a sign of real interest in pursuing the two firms.
- The FTC had already signaled its intention to look at tech giants with a new task force. What's new is its claim over Amazon.
Yes, but: Claiming the jurisdiction to investigate a company or launching an investigation remains multiple steps away from filing an actual antitrust lawsuit.
- DOJ is reportedly "gearing up" for the Google inquiry rather than already being in its throes, per the Wall Street Journal.
- The FTC's plans for Amazon aren't clear, according to the Washington Post.
The bottom line: There are already numerous investigations into Big Tech, and hundreds of lawmakers are grappling with how to regulate it around the world. A U.S. antitrust case against either Google or Amazon would nonetheless be game changing — if it materializes.