Displaying items by tag: antitrust
The anti-trust probe into Google elicited little more than a shrug from markets. Investors seem to think this just Washington saber-rattling. However, what is not well understood is that the probe is not just a risk for Google, but a major one for Apple. Apple is intimately connected to the case the DOJ is trying to form. In particular, Google pays Apple billions of Dollars a year to be the default search engine on iPhone, a fact which the DOJ has centered its case on. That money flows into Apple’s services unit, which has been its biggest growth driver in recent years. According to an analyst from Bernstein “There’s a risk, if you play it out, that there actually could be more financial impact to Apple than there is for Google”.
FINSUM: The market seems to have fundamentally misunderstood the risk here. Google got the headlines, but Apple potentially has even bigger risk.
It has been stewing for a while, but antitrust regulation regarding some of the stock market’s largest companies is starting to look like more of a reality. However, it is not in the way one might expect. Trump has long said he wanted to work on anti-trust regulation—with Amazon the frequent target of his ire—but now he is taking steps that actually support big companies and corporate power. The way the administration is going about is through the Justice Department filing many legal arguments in cases where it is not even a party. In this way, it is trying to influence how the courts handle competition cases, and it has generally been pushing patent-holder friendly positions and undercutting lawsuits of other enforcement agencies.
FINSUM: This does not track very well with Trump’s general rhetoric, but it does follow a general Republican economic line. It seems positive for stocks.
It is getting ugly on the left. While big tech companies have always been fairly far-left politically, a new line has just been drawn. In new transcripts just released, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, says he will “go to the mat and fight” with presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren to stop her plan to break up big tech companies. “If she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government … But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight”, said Zuckerberg. Warren retorted “What would really ‘suck’ is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anti-competitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy”.
FINSUM: Warren is still a long way from office, but this is a glimpse of what the future would look like should the far-left win the election. Instead of probes and whistleblowers, we would have major courtroom dramas over anti-monopoly measures.
A few weeks ago there was a great deal of press, and some investor anxiety, about simultaneous anti-trust probes being launched from the FTC and DOJ into America’s biggest tech companies. Before those efforts seem to have even gotten off the ground, the investigation seems to be backtracking. The head of the FTC said this week that the integration of Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp will likely stymie any effort to break up the social media giant. The TFC chief also acknowledged it would be hard to get the courts to reverse a merger that the FTC itself had already approved, which is the case with Facebook and its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.
FINSUM: This seems like a pretty notable surrender after only a few weeks of work. We wonder why the FTC is changing its tone so strongly?
One of the surprises in the Big tech space has been that top names have not moved as much on news of various antitrust and other probes as one might have expected. Here is why: investors just don’t think any current actions will have a material impact on business models. For instance, Facebook agreed to pay a $5 bn fine last week, but that sum is small enough that it does not change Facebook’s incentives in any way, it can just keep on doing what it has been.
FINSUM: We think this is a woefully optimistic view. Regulating Big Tech is one of the few areas of strong bipartisan agreement between Trump and the Democrats. The likelihood of it having a material impact on the sector’s business model seems high to us.