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WSJ Digest 2021-10-09

WSJ Digest 2021-10-09

1. Justice Department Makes Quiet Push on Antitrust Enforcement
Spotlight on Biden administration enforcement has focused on FTC, but DOJ has been more active so far, despite lengthy period of transition

The department also filed a major lawsuit against Google last year, alleging the company uses anticompetitive tactics to preserve a monopoly for its flagship search engine and related advertising business. The Biden DOJ, working with a group of state attorneys general on the case, is preparing for trial—not scheduled until 2023—and considering whether to bring an additional case targeting Google’s dominance in the digital-advertising market.null

The department is separately considering whether to challenge Apple’s policies for managing its App Store, a probe that was opened in the last administration but has accelerated this year, people familiar with the matter said. Decisions on both those tech-sector matters are expected in the coming months.

In other areas, the department has made clear breaks with actions from the Trump years. In July, it withdrew from an antitrust settlement reached last year with the real-estate industry’s largest trade group over brokers’ commissions. The agreement, with the National Association of Realtors, included terms designed to increase transparency and deter misrepresentations regarding broker commissions. In withdrawing, the department said the settlement doesn’t protect its right to investigate other conduct by the trade group that could affect competition and harm home buyers and sellers. NAR is now challenging a subpoena it received recently from Justice.

The department also is expected to embrace policies that give companies less room to use their intellectual-property rights to limit competition. And the DOJ recently signaled that it had concerns about the adequacy of new guidelines released just last year that govern how it and the FTC review so-called vertical mergers of companies that don’t directly compete with one another.

The five-member FTC voted 3-2 along partisan lines last month to formally withdraw those guidelines. The commission’s new chairwoman, Lina Khan, is a leading progressive advocate for overhauling antitrust enforcement. She has been laying the groundwork for changes at the commission as she settles into the job, but hasn’t yet spearheaded any major new cases.

Write to Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com

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Harvey Yan

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