2023 Anti-Monopoly Summit Sparks Momentum and Celebrates Wins in Fight Against Corporate Power’s Stranglehold
Washington, D.C. — The American Economic Liberties Project’s 2023 Anti-Monopoly Summit yesterday was punctuated by aggressive speeches from a series of government regulators and enforcers who pledged to rekindle their authority to forcefully take on corporate monopolies.
Throughout the day, speakers celebrated the movement’s wins, dissected the challenges ahead, and examined how a range of stakeholders can come together to create an economy built from the bottom up and middle out. The Summit was capped off by remarks from President Joe Biden, who emphasized the importance of an inclusive, whole-of-government approach to promoting competition throughout the economy.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a champion of robust antitrust legislation in Congress, spoke to the immense opportunity now to rebalance how power is distributed in the economy and ensure a fair playing field for small business owners, entrepreneurs, workers, and communities. Citing Adam Smith, Senator Klobuchar said “You can only have an economy that works, if the government is willing to take on the standing army of monopolists.”
Director of the National Economic Council Lael Brainard spoke to how the Biden Administration is reshaping highly concentrated markets to ensure competition unlocks the full potential of our economy. “Competition is a fundamental American value at the beating heart of capitalism,” said Director Brainard. “It’s a key pillar of our economic agenda – it has to be.”
During a fireside conversation with the New York Times’ Binyamin Appelbaum, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter spoke to how the antitrust agencies are enforcing the law to protect working Americans from corporate monopolies.
“In sector after sector for the last 40 years, we’ve seen consolidation,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan. “And that consolidation is leading to higher prices for consumers, and declining rates of innovation and entrepreneurship…We are fully activating the tools and the laws that Congress charged us with administrating.”
“Antitrust and antimonopoly is about people – about making people’s lives better, making democratic and capitalist society more productive, more fair, more open, more accessible,” said AAG Jonathan Kanter.
Highlighting the importance of labor in the anti-monopoly movement along with cross-agency collaboration in the fight against corporate power, National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said, “We’ve developed really critical partnerships with the FTC, DOJ Antitrust, CFPB – our goals are the same: to stop deceptive and unfair practices, to address misclassification, to address employment structures that restrain competition.”
During a mainstage conversation on challenging corporate power from the ground up, anti-monopoly champion Rep. Summer Lee spoke to how the anti-monopoly fight is a personal one. “I came to this, not as an expert but as someone with a necessity – from a region that has known its fair share of robber barons.”
New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris similarly emphasized the role of local communities in battling corporate power, stating “Market power is power – not just in the market, but in everything else. It becomes political power, and exercises itself in a lot of facets of our lives.”
“Central to true competition is America’s entrepreneurs. But despite their impressive spirit, small businesses face unfair competition challenges across multiple industries,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority, while introducing a panel on revitalizing American entrepreneurship and innovation. “All small businesses want is a level playing field on which to compete.”
Rohit Chopra, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, kicked off the afternoon by highlighting the link between his agency mission’s and broader anti-monopoly mission of increasing competition to benefit workers, consumers, small businesses, and communities. “Competition requires new thinking on trade, on intellectual property, and banking and finance of course. We have to carefully look at our policies affect the structure of markets, especially in the digital world.”
Speaking to the CFPB’s work to protect consumers from corporate thievery, Director Chopra emphasized the importance of clear guidelines, saying “Experience tells us that we’re better off when we have bright line rules rather than complex regulations that the lawyers can run around.”
On a panel moderated by reporter Dave Jamieson, International Brotherhood of Teamster’s Jimmy Donovan, AFL-CIO’s William Samuel, DOJ Antitrust Division’s Doha Mekki, and NEC Deputy Director Celeste Drake gathered to discuss the link between labor and the anti-monopoly movement. National Economic Council Deputy Director Celeste Drake said “Competition policy that works for workers has to be combined with labor policy that works for workers.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Doha Mekki affirmed this thinking while describing the Antitrust Division’s work to crack down on wage fixing schemes, no-poach agreements, and other illegal tactics corporations use to disempower workers. “The Justice Department has been at the forefront of labor and competition issues, and we’re really proud of that work…Labor regulation is just day-to-day part of our antitrust work at the Antitrust Division.”
Labor leaders like AFL-CIO Director of Government Affairs William Samuel shared optimism at the state of the labor movement and union organizing, saying “The labor movement’s strength is that it’s everywhere,” while also discussing the need for legislative reform. “We are going to have to change our labor laws — there’s no question about it.”
Widely credited as the architect of President Biden’s Executive Order on promoting competition in the economy, Tim Wu celebrated the administration’s whole-of-government approach to competition policy, stating that the EO is “not just a piece of paper, it’s a living practice and that is key to making it work.”
Matt Stoller, Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project, emphasized the gravity of this shift in thinking from previous administration’s antitrust agendas. “This executive order really has animated almost a movement — not almost — has animated a movement within government.”
During closing remarks, Secretary Pete Buttigieg discussed his recent efforts to center competition policy in decision-making at the Department of Transportation, sharing his concerns around the “broader pattern of concentration” he sees in airlines, ocean shipping, freight rail and beyond.
“When the structure of an industry whether by design or evolution brings less consumer choice, worse service, diminished accountability and disempowered workers, you get to a point where addressing the symptoms won’t be enough,” said Secretary Buttigieg. “We have to face root causes and that of course — is where the anti-monopoly movement comes in. And, that is where DOT’s competition authorities comes in.”
Secretary Buttigieg also commented on new efforts at the USDOT to use the full extent of its authority to combat economic concentration and/or dangerous mergers, such as its recent support of the DOJ’s suit to block the the JetBlue-Spirit merger.
President Joe Biden concluded the day with a celebration of his administration’s accomplishments and a rallying cry that specifically called out the the threat corporate consolidation poses to everyday Americans.
“We have much more to do to reverse the decades of concentrated corporate power, continuing to lower prices for consumers, and increasing opportunities for workers and small business owners,” said the President. “So let’s finish the job.”
You can watch President Biden’s remarks here.
You can rewatch the mainstage remarks from the 2023 Anti-Monopoly Summit here.
Learn more about Economic Liberties here.
The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.