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Biden looks to ex-Obama staff to address Big Tech and other antitrust issues

Biden looks to ex-Obama staff to address Big Tech and other antitrust issues

Two former Obama administration officials have become favorites for the top antitrust job at the US Department of Justice under the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

One of the selections is Renata Hesse, who has had multiple terms with the Justice Department since 2002 and most recently served as Acting Assistant Attorney General from mid-2016 to January 2017. She has also held positions in the private sector and has advised in matters related to companies such as Amazon.com Inc and Google of Alphabet Inc.

Notably, Hesse advised Amazon on its more than $ 13 billion acquisition of the supermarket chain Whole Foods, according to her bio on the website of the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, where she currently holds is a partner.

Her role could raise conflict of interest issues as the Justice Department continues its widely followed case against Google, the sources said. The Justice Department sued Google on October 20, accusing the trillion-dollar company of dominating search and advertising.

The other favorite is Juan Arteaga, who also worked for the Justice Department during Barack Obama's presidency between 2013 and 2017 and served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Enforcement, according to sources, who did not want to be identified.

Arteaga has also held positions in the private sector and has advised companies such as JP Morgan Chase & Co and AT&T Inc.

Other contenders under consideration include Jonathan Kanter, who co-chaired the antitrust department at law firm Paul Weiss and now runs his own firm, the sources said. He is a prominent critic for Big Tech and Google. Many progressive groups favor Kanter's appointment as they push for more aggressive antitrust enforcement.

The names undoubtedly reflect Biden's transition thinking so far and could change as the investigative process progresses, the sources said.

Biden's transition team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Antitrust enforcement has become an issue that Biden's transition team has been paying attention to. For example, a third source said that the transition is to prioritize the incorporation of a landing team to start working on the problems and that Arteaga could be a good option.

Additionally, on Nov. 18, Biden's transition agency review team for the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice held a meeting with outside moderate and progressive groups to discuss antitrust policy priorities, according to three sources. independent.

Some of the general priorities discussed in the call included having more "aggressive" antitrust officers.

"Bring cases even if you are going to lose," said a source, describing how this point was raised at the meeting.

Other topics discussed during the session included reversing the merger guidelines, retrospective scrutiny of mergers, revamping outdated competition laws, and offering more funding for federal enforcement agencies like the FTC, the sources said.

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