When the incoming Trump administration takes over in Washington in January, some major corporations are looking forward to an era of reduced oversight and more lax regulations. Among them is Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOGC) Google.
Although Google is known to be a liberal company facing a conservative administration, the company continues to deal with ongoing antitrust issues both in the U.S. and in Europe. Google can use all the friends it can muster and it looks as if it will have friends aplenty inside the beltway.
FTC Transition TeamDonald Trump himself has not set a clear tone on what his policy and attitude about antitrust issues will be but some of his appointments could have a positive impact on companies like Alphabet.
The Federal Trade Commission transition team is led by former FTC commissioner Joshua Wright whose history suggests he will be friendly toward Google. It was, after all, his FTC commission that chose not to take action against Google even though the commission’s enforcement division suggest it do so.
Inside The Commission
The FTC will have 3 openings to fill immediately and 1 to fill early in 2017. The transition team is expected to vet candidates that are likely to take a more conservative, pro-business approach to antitrust issues.
Moreover, the fifth member of the FTC is highly conservative and known to question the authority of the agency, making them also a positive fit for Google and others facing antitrust problems.
In addition to the FTC, the Department of Justice also has jurisdiction over antitrust issues. Trump’s Attorney General nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions has no public record on antitrust issues such as those facing Google, but Sessions is a free market capitalist and as such would tend to be more favorable than not.
Then there is the FCC. Whoever fills the 3 empty seats there will be likely set to overturn the FCC’s net neutrality decision. This could be both good news and bad news for Google. Should Google restart its fiber business the company could benefit from reduced regulations. On the other hand, should the FCC overturn its decision, ISPs would have more power in an area Google dominates.
That Pesky EU
Alphabet may look forward to happy days with U.S. regulators, but still has to contend with the European Union, which has leveled antitrust charges against Google for unfairly promoting its shopping service and blocking rivals in online search advertising.
Google formally rejected the EU charges in November. Now it’s up to the EU to rule next year and potentially impose big fines on the tech giant.
According to Google’s general counsel, Kent Walker, the EU charges have no “factual, legal or economic basis.” Walker said the actions by Google were driven by users and not part of a plan to go after its rivals.