Business Standard

The trustbuste­r who has Apple and Google in his sights

- DAVID MCCABE ©2024 The New York Times News Service

Shortly after Jonathan Kanter (pictured) took over the Justice Department’s antitrust division in November 2021, the agency secured an additional $50 million to investigat­e monopolies, bust criminal cartels and block mergers. To celebrate, Kanter bought a prop of a giant check, placed it outside his office and wrote on the check’s memo line: “Break ’Em Up.”

Kanter, 50, has pushed that philosophy ever since, becoming a lead architect of the most significan­t effort in decades to fight the concentrat­ion of power in corporate America. On Thursday, he took his biggest swing when the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple. In the 88-page lawsuit, the government argued that Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices intended to keep customers reliant on its iphones and less likely to switch to competing devices.

That lawsuit joins two Justice Department antitrust cases against Google that argue the company illegally shored up monopolies. Kanter’s staff has also challenged numerous corporate mergers, including suing to stop Jetblue Airways from buying Spirit Airlines.

“We want to help real people by making sure that our antitrust laws work for workers, work for consumers, work for entreprene­urs and work to protect our democratic values,” Kanter said in a January interview. He declined to comment on the Google cases and other active litigation. At a news conference about the Apple lawsuit on Thursday, Kanter compared the action to past Justice Department challenges to Standard Oil, AT&T and Microsoft. The suit is aimed at protecting “the market for the innovation­s that we can’t yet perceive,” he said.

Kanter and Lina Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, have now taken action against four of the six biggest public tech companies, in a sweeping drive to rein in the power of the industry.

The F.T.C. has separately filed antitrust suits against Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, and Amazon. But Kanter and Khan are on the clock to see how far they can take their efforts. The November election could remove President Biden from the White House and take Kanter and Khan with him.

More than two dozen people who know Kanter, including current and former Justice Department employees, described his twodecade rise. Some spoke anonymousl­y to describe confidenti­al government deliberati­ons and presentati­ons.

Kanter was raised in the Queens. After graduating from Forest Hills High School, he attended the State University of New York at Albany and then law school at Washington University in St. Louis.

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