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Senate Confirms Jonathan Kanter as Justice Department’s Top Antitrust Official

November 17, 2021 by Reece Nations
In this March 22, 2019 file photo, an American flag flies outside the Department of Justice in Washington. President Joe Biden’s choice to lead enforcement of competition laws at the Justice Department has won Senate approval. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Senators voted 68-29 on Tuesday to confirm competition lawyer Jonathan Kanter as assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

Kanter has established himself as a critic of big tech and has represented companies like Microsoft and Yelp in lawsuits against Google for anti-competitive conduct. Kanter is now set to take up numerous Justice Department competition lawsuits against big tech companies including a case against Google that was filed during the Trump administration concerning the company’s digital advertising practices.

Given his prior work in cases against Google, Kanter said in his testimony before lawmakers he will consult with ethics officials at the DOJ about recusing himself from that case. Kanter can still appoint deputies in the lawsuit that could follow his lead in hindering Google’s alleged monopolistic behavior.

“Today’s overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate vote to confirm Jonathan Kanter as assistant attorney general for Antitrust at the Department of Justice is a rejection of the failed antitrust regime responsible for America’s concentration crisis,” Sarah Miller, executive director of the anti-monopoly advocacy group American Economic Liberties Project, said in a written statement. “It’s never been clearer that monopolies, particularly unaccountable platforms like Facebook and Google, are a menace to families, small businesses, and communities around the country.”

Miller continued, “Kanter’s leadership at the Department of Justice will mark the beginning of the end of this era of lawlessness for powerful corporations. We congratulate him on his confirmation and look forward to working with him to promote fair competition.”

Kanter was a favorite among progressives to lead DOJ’s antitrust division thanks to his track record against tech companies, and won over senators from across the aisle who have maintained the oversized influence of a handful of big tech companies is troublesome for a free and fair marketplace. 

Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, ranking members on the Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, respectively, were among the Republicans who voted in support of Kanter’s confirmation.

Kanter now joins Tim Wu of the National Economic Council and Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan as the latest high-profile antitrust enforcement advocate to join the Biden administration. But while Khan’s role requires her to win over a majority of FTC officials to enforce antitrust law, Kanter need only file lawsuits as deputy attorney general to enforce those rules.

“For years, Jonathan Kanter has been a leader in the effort to increase antitrust enforcement against monopolies by federal, state, and international competition authorities,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said in a written statement on Kanter’s confirmation. 

“His deep legal experience makes him the right person to lead the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. Now that he has been confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to working together to ensure that the Antitrust Division fulfills its mission to vigorously enforce the antitrust laws, protect consumers, and promote competition throughout our economy.” 

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

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