Give Facebook credit. He managed to do the one thing no one else could do: bring together Republican and Democratic politicians. The Federal Trade Commission and 46 states yesterday sued for breaking Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, and a surprisingly bipartisan chorus of political voices shouted support for the move. This case may be the only smooth transfer from the Trump administration to the Biden administration.
And let’s be clear: the case is barely a slam dunk. Facebook was quick to make the strongest argument against this, namely this: the agency signed the two acquisitions when they took place in 2012 and 2014. Have the facts changed? If all was well, why not now?
What has changed, of course, is the political environment. Facebook itself has gone from darling technology to Darth Vader – accused by Republicans and Democrats of destroying democracy. In its efforts to fix the problem, the company has only made Republicans even worse – who believe the left-wing coastal company has it all. But a Democratic administration could prove to be an even greater existential threat, as Democrats have for several years flirted with a new, more expansive approach to antitrust policy. They now have their test case.
If successful, the case will be the biggest competition law case since the dissolution of AT&T. Even if that fails, it will be quite a spectacle. I supervised the the Wall Street newspaperthe cover of the Microsoft antitrust in the 1990s and can vouch for the fireworks that result when so much money and corporate power are at stake. Many lawyers and lobbyists will earn their retirement with this one.
More news below. And check out our coverage of the other big event of the day – the no-profit DoorDash IPO, which jumped 85% after starting trading at a reported valuation of approximately $ 72 billion. (The price hike, of course, has been described by investment bankers as a good thing, rather than a price failure.) Tomorrow, Airbnb, priced at $ 68 at a valuation of $ 47 billion, no doubt hopes for a similar rise. Who knew so much money could be made in the midst of a global pandemic.