The country’s most powerful companies will make many efforts to dominate their industries, but for the sake of competition, some tactics are off limits. When major firms push too hard, they often end up in court. We have some of the biggest stories in antitrust in this week’s Five For Friday.
#5: Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House
What type of antitrust case would trot out the mind behind “The Shining,” “It,” “Carrie” and “The Shawshank Redemption”? Stephen King took the stand on Tuesday to testify against his own publisher Simon & Schuster, which is attempting a $2.2 billion merger with Penguin Random House. As an expert witness on behalf of the government, the author said consolidation of two of the big five publishers would hurt up-and-coming writers. King added that he has already seen a change in the industry where some publishers will just step aside in bidding wars over the rights for books, keeping prices low throughout the industry. He equated the situation to “a husband and wife bidding against each other for a house. It’s a little bit ridiculous.”
#4: Just Google
As one of the biggest global names in tech, Google has faced a number of antitrust woes. In the last few years, Google has faced lawsuits from nearly every state over its dominance in online advertising and how it prioritizes search results. The issues don’t stop there. The alleged monopolization of its app store is also being challenged by Fortnite maker Epic Games and dating app Match. With the Department of Justice breathing down its back in recent months, Google reportedly offered to split off some of its ad business to avoid more legal trouble. Unfortunately for Google, the DOJ reportedly isn’t buying it and is still planning to file suit in the near future.
#3: Antitrust bill miss
Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have a bill ready to move forward in Congress’ upper chamber that would take on exactly what Google is being accused of with ad sales. Amazon and Apple would also be targets of the legislation due to preferential treatment. But alas, Klobuchar said this week her bill wouldn’t get a vote ahead of the August recess. Lawmakers have a massive budget to pass and with midterms coming up, chances are slim that the bill sees the light of day in this Congress.
#2: UnitedHealth & Change Healthcare
Tech companies seem to be the number one target in antitrust these days, but healthcare isn’t far behind. The DOJ filed a suit to stop the $13 billion merger of UnitedHealth and Change Healthcare. The government claims the deal gives UnitedHealth, which owns the nation’s largest insurer, access to most data from its rivals. In opening arguments earlier this week, UnitedHealth downplayed those concerns, saying it already receives that data through its Optum services unit and it handles the information with care.
#1: Meta & Within
The antitrust landscape is changing with the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit against Facebook parent company Meta to stop its acquisition of virtual reality fitness startup Within. Meta has been taking strides to bolster its VR market share after buying headset maker Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion. The deal for Within is reportedly worth upwards of $400 million, which may not seem like much in this realm. But FTC chair Lina Khan has made it her goal to make sure antitrust isn’t only about megamergers. In fact, she reportedly overruled her staff who didn’t want to move forward with this suit.