Biden nominates Google critic to lead DoJ antitrust division

Joe Biden will nominate Jonathan Kanter, who has represented some of Google’s fiercest rivals, as one of his administration’s top competition law enforcers, presenting yet another potential challenge to Silicon Valley’s largest companies.

If confirmed as head of the US justice department’s antitrust division, Kanter will take over responsibility for the government’s antitrust case against Google.

Kanter has previously represented several companies that have complained about Google’s anti-competitive practices, including Microsoft and News Corp. Google declined to comment.

The nomination is a further sign of Biden’s intent to reshape the way in which competition law is enforced in the US. It follows the appointments of two prominent Big Tech critics, Lina Khan and Tim Wu, as chair of the Federal Trade Commission and a White House adviser, respectively.

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“Jonathan Kanter is a distinguished antitrust lawyer with over 20 years of experience,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday announcing its intended nomination. “Throughout his career, Kanter has also been a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy.”

Kanter, the founding partner at boutique antitrust firm The Kanter Law Group, did not respond to a request for comment.

His appointment would put another high-profile tech critic in charge of enforcing federal antitrust laws, alongside Khan, whose pointed criticism of Amazon and Facebook led those companies to request her recusal from matters involving them.

Kanter had been seen as the more progressive of the two candidates reportedly on the president’s shortlist for the DoJ job. Jonathan Sallet, the other, may have faced fewer potential conflicts of interest than Kanter, given Kanter’s previous client list. However, he was not championed by those on the left of the party who have urged a rethink of antitrust policy.

The nomination is another sign of the growing power of a handful of progressive academics, lawyers and campaigners, who argue that US competition law has not been properly enforced for decades.

One of those academics is Wu, who was the architect of this month’s presidential order on competition, which aimed to tackle concentrations of power across the US economy.

Before Kanter’s appointment, progressives tweeted a picture of a mug on which was written Wu & Khan & Kanter.

Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, said in a statement that Kanter “will reinvigorate antitrust enforcement — both civil and criminal — and strengthen the DoJ’s scrutiny of the anti-competitive abuses that threaten our economy, our society, and our democracy”.

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