While a bipartisan group of lawmakers have criticized the market power of Big Tech, some might argue that the Justice Department’s new antitrust lawsuit against Google (GOOG, GOOGL) is politically motivated. Notably, the 11 attorneys general who joined the lawsuit were all Republicans, and the timing of the filing comes two weeks before the presidential election.
However, the Trump administration’s antitrust case filed against Google on Tuesday alleges even-handed claims, according to Matt Stoller, the research director for the non-profit American Economic Liberties Project, which advocates for robust antitrust regulation.
“It's a solid complaint. It's well argued. It's good framing,” Stoller told Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round Tuesday, acknowledging that he is a Democrat. “It's narrow, so it's only handling how [Google] distribute[s] search, not the behavior they're engaging in.”
The long-expected lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Google of violating the Sherman Act, which prohibits actions that restrict marketplace competition. The lawsuit focuses on three markets — search, search advertising, and search text — and specifically targets deals with device makers, browser developers, and wireless carriers (including Yahoo Finance’s parent company, Verizon) to make Google the default search engine.
The suit comes just two weeks before the presidential election, and without explicit backing from Democratic attorneys general, but Stoller rejected the notion that it was partisan.
“There's no nonsense about anti-conservative bias,” Stoller said, referring to a major partisan topic surrounding tech regulation. “It's purely about contractual arrangements for distributing search and Google's control of Chrome and Android...But, you know, Democrats aren't going to sign on to a case two weeks before an election that might help Donald Trump get re-elected.”
Ultimately, he believes Democratic attorneys general will bring their own cases that might get consolidated with the existing suit.
‘That’s a huge deal, right?’
Stoller believes the case is a “huge deal” despite its “narrow claims.”
“You’ve got a conservative Republican administration saying we're gonna break up a trillion dollar company,” said Stoller, author of “Goliath: The 100-year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.” “That's a huge deal, right? Ideologically it's a huge deal in terms of Google's business. It's a huge deal in terms of just American political economy.”
Still, Stoller said he would expect a Biden administration to take more aggressive steps toward regulating Google and other tech giants than Trump did, or would during a second term. He added that prosecutors should broaden their case and that Congress should take additional steps towards reining in Big Tech market power.
“You're also going to see regulatory action. You're going to see legislative action. You're going to see action all over the world. And you're going to see private rights of actions, because the business world is really split over these guys — this is kind of the Fortune 5, right?” he said, apparently referring to the five biggest tech giants. “The big five against everyone else in the economy.”
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance and former litigation attorney.
Follow Alexis Keenan on Twitter @alexiskweed.