Biden is considering Susan Davies or Renata Hesse, among other names, for the antitrust division's chief role. The two are decorated Silicon Valley lawyers specializing in antitrust laws who held White House and Justice Department posts before helping tech giants escape litigations.
Biden is considering the two even though anti-monopolist groups are imploring the incoming administration to appoint aggressive leaders who will reinvigorate the country's limp antitrust enforcement. Agencies like the Antitrust Division have let Big Tech companies off the hook in many instances, leading to "a growing crisis of monopoly power" in the last decade.
Davies and Hesse both have an extensive history of helping corporations avoid litigations. Davies, a partner at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, represented multiple Fortune 100 companies and tech giants facing federal investigations between years of serving the White House and the Justice Department.
Davies represented Facebook when it was sued for violating federal antitrust and California unfair competition laws in 2012. She was also a defense attorney for global hospitality company Wyndham when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came after it for sloppy data security and multiple data breaches in the same year. She also worked alongside Merrick Garland, the incoming Justice Department Attorney General appointed by Biden, as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee general counsel under former President Bill Clinton.
Davies would later help secure Garland's Supreme Court nomination in 2016, which was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
During former President Barack Obama's administration, Davies served as a White House aide in charge of selecting and vetting federal judicial nominations. During her time, less than one in 20 judges nominated for federal court had a public interest background.
Hesse, a partner in the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLC, served both the government and Big Tech. A prominent Silicon Valley defender, she helped Amazon escape litigation during its acquisition of Whole Foods Market and acted as counsel for Google during the 2018 FTC hearings. Hesse also served the Antitrust Division for several years and had been its acting assistant attorney general during the Obama administration.
Biden is considering Big Tech allies for critical positions despite the demands of several anti-monopolist groups for institutional reform. American Economic Liberties Project, a Washington-based anti-monopolist organization, is calling for aggressive Justice Department and FTC antitrust enforcers who are equipped to take Big Tech companies by the horns.
The organization released a report on Tuesday containing the pleas as well as recommendations to have antitrust cases against Google and Facebook expanded. The tech giants currently face a lawsuit for dominating search and advertising and for employing an anti-competitive "buy or bury" strategy, respectively.
"Our position is that any enforcer must reject the consumer welfare ideology that was the root cause of decades of severe institutional failure," group founder Sarah Miller, who is also working with Biden’s transition team, told the Intercept.
Agencies like the Antitrust Division and the FTC are intended to put a check on America’s most powerful corporations and hold them to account. But these agencies failed to pursue Big Tech in several instances.
In 2015, the Wall Street Journal found that FTC staff strongly recommended two years earlier that the government sue Google for unfair and monopolistic trade practices. But FTC’s commissioners declined to take legal action and instead voted unanimously in early 2013 to end the investigation. (Related: Matt Gaetz: 'Congress not going to rein in Big Tech, Congress owned by Big Tech'.)
Learn more about Biden's deep ties with Big Tech companies at TechGiants.news.