Judge Mehta blocked a merger between Sysco and US Foods, the country’s two largest food distributors, and the companies abandoned the deal. There was no appeal, which antitrust experts say reflects the judge’s sound reasoning in the case.
The choice of judge is crucial. They make every decision, from pretrial questions to the ultimate ruling. But in big cases like the one against Google, managing public perceptions and maintaining the court’s reputation are also important, Paula Hannaford-Agor, a director at the National Center for State Courts’ project on high-profile cases, told DealBook.
Judge Thomas Jackson, who presided over the U.S. government’s antitrust case against Microsoft in the late 1990s, made little secret of his impatience with the company and gave embargoed media interviews displaying his distaste before ordering a breakup. The appeals court noted the indiscretion in overturning the decision.
You may recognize Judge Mehta’s name. He ruled that President Trump couldn’t block a subpoena from a House committee seeking his financial records. The Supreme Court decided the case in July, with other presidential tax matters. Now it’s back in Judge Mehta’s court.
As for the Google suit, the company says consumers are happy and that its deals with other companies help make products affordable. But the top investigator, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who represented Netscape in the Microsoft case, tells The Times’s Cecilia Kang, “the monopolist almost always says that.”
Is antitrust law up to the job? Some say existing laws don’t work for digital business models. But economists and legal experts increasingly argue that more radical change is needed. They propose a specialist regulator that would focus on tech companies.
Big Tech’s “professional opponents” have been making their case for years. These lawyers, academics, and former corporate insiders supplied the arguments and data that suggest modern tools can be used to perpetuate old-fashioned antitrust abuses. They’re eager to see how their arguments hold up in the Google case. At any rate, Times Opinion’s Tim Wu writes, “the lawsuit has a significance greater than itself: It is a reminder that even the most powerful private companies must reckon with the still greater power of the people.”
“The shift to digital forms of currencies is inevitable.”
— Dan Schulman, the C.E.O. of PayPal, announcing that the payments giant will soon allow customers to use cryptocurrencies, sparking a surge in the price of bitcoin.
‘The guilt by association thing’
“Fairly or not, Palantir has come to be regarded as an enabler and prime beneficiary of Trump’s presidency,” Michael Steinberger writes for The Times Magazine, in a big new profile of the data-mining company’s chief, Alex Karp. What happens to Palantir if Mr. Trump loses?
Mr. Karp acknowledges the risks of Palantir’s perceived links to Mr. Trump, which he calls “the guilt by association thing.” This is particularly the case with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has been criticized for raids on undocumented immigrants and separations of families at the border. But he said that pulling out of those contracts would render him an unreliable partner for others who rely on his software, like soldiers: “Why would a war fighter believe you aren’t going to do the same thing to them when they’re in the middle of a battle?”
The C.E.O. says he’s a “progressive warrior.” He voted for Hillary Clinton (and is supporting Joe Biden this year), has a doctorate in social theory from Goethe University in Frankfurt and describes himself as a “racially amorphous, far-left Jewish kid who’s also dyslexic.” His personal politics and intellectual pedigree — staffers call him “Dr. Karp” — deflect some criticism of Palantir’s work, and stand in contrast to Palantir’s chairman, the billionaire investor Peter Thiel, an early Trump supporter.