The Antitrust Agenda: Capital One/Discover Deal Announced as CFPB, Durbin Scrutinize Credit Card Industry and DOJ Investigation of Visa Continues

Published on Feb 20, 2024

DOJ investigation of Visa has recently taken back seat to Apple, Live Nation probes. DOJ has prioritized its monopolization investigation of Apple (AAPL) and is expected to file suit soon. The department is on track to follow that litigation with a suit against Live Nation Entertainment (LYV).

Market events can affect the timing of monopolization investigations, and it’s worth watching to see if DOJ’s review of the Capital One (COF) proposed $35.3 billion acquisition of Discover (DFS) will have implications for the department’s ongoing antitrust examination Visa (V).

The Capital One/Discover deal comes as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a prominent critic of the credit card industry, has highlighted additional concerns.

CFPB report finds large banks charge higher credit card rates than small ones do; AELP sees M&A-fueled exploitation. A CFPB report released Friday found that large banks charge credit card users eight to 10 points more than the interest fees of credit unions, and medium-sized and small banks.

In the report, the agency found that large credit issuers charge higher interest rates for customers regardless of their credit scores—sometimes as much as 30%—and that 27% of large firms charge a higher annual fee than small ones.

“With over $1 trillion in credit card debt outstanding, the CFPB will be accelerating its efforts to ensure that consumers can access better rates that can save families billions of dollars per year,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in a statement.

The report “is a clear indictment of how big banks, emboldened by unchecked mergers and consolidation, exploit their market dominance to lock consumers in so they can levy exorbitant fees and interest rates,” said The American Economic Liberties Project’s Morgan Harper, the antimonopolist group’s director of policy and advocacy. “The stark reality is that monopoly power in banking—and the decline of smaller and regional banks—is not just a theoretical concern but a tangible harm to everyday working families costing them hundreds of dollars every year.”

Durbin Calls on Credit Card and Airline CEOs to testify. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) has called on the CEOs of Visa, Mastercard (MA), United Airlines (UAL) and American Airlines (AAL) to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 9.

Durbin’s Credit Card Competition Act of 2023, which he introduced last June with co-sponsor Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS), would take on Visa and Mastercard’s “duopoly” by forcing credit-lending banks to offer customers more options for such services, according to the committee’s release. This would lead to large reductions in swipe fees, which Visa and Mastercard require merchants to pay either directly to them or to their credit-lending banks. Visa and Mastercard control more than 80% of the credit card market, earning $637 million in swipe fees in 2022. Customers pay an average of 19 cents per swipe fee.

Visa and Mastercard’s CEOs have spoken out against the bill, as have United and American Airlines’ top executives, arguing that the act would harm frequent flyer rewards programs. Last October, Durbin and Marshall requested information from the Department of Transportation and the CFPB regarding the airlines’ allegedly predatory behavior with these programs.

In his letter to the CEOs, Durbin wrote, “Visa and Mastercard have aggressively opposed efforts to bring competition to the credit card market in order to protect the dominant market position they share. Visa, Mastercard and its allies have spent millions of dollars opposing my Credit Card Competition Act, including through false and misleading advertising claiming the bill would ‘ban’ credit card rewards programs. At the same time, both American Airlines and United Airlines have aggressively opposed efforts to bring competition to the credit card market in order to protect the billions of dollars in windfall profits their companies collect through their co-branded credit cards.  These airlines have become credit card companies that fly planes.”

Durbin also announced that Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Jack Reed (D-RI) have signed on as co-sponsors to the bill, joining the previously announced Peter Welch (D-VT) and J.D. Vance (R-OH). None of the companies responded to Capitol Forum queries for comment.

In Their Own Words

Colorado AG: Kroger & Albertsons want to collude, not compete. From Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s complaint (release) last week in state court seeking to block the planned merger of The Kroger Co., Albertsons Companies, Inc. (ACI) and C&S Wholesale Grocers.

“ACI employees … recognized the potential impact of the Proposed Merger, reacting with shock and disbelief. One employee exclaimed, ‘you are basically creating a monopoly in grocery with the merger …’ Another echoed that the merger could not possibly be approved because it would create a ‘monopoly.’ Even the ACI COO acknowledged, ‘We are being bought by our enemy.’”

“Kroger and ACI are fierce head-to-head competitors in Colorado, and across the country. They … compete in … grocery operations including on price, customer service, store quality, shopping experience, product depth and variety, availability of local supply, private label brands, customer loyalty and rewards programs, and data analytics. Consumers benefit … from this competition in the form of lower prices, friendly service, well-maintained and stocked stores, fresh products, diverse offerings [and] rewards… Others benefit too. For instance, the companies seek to hire the best employees for their stores, which improves wages and benefits. And because the companies compete for local products, Colorado farmers and suppliers get fair prices for their goods.

“Conscious of the substantial harm to competition to be caused by the merger, Kroger has proposed to divest some of the ACI stores that it would acquire in Colorado to defendant C&S—stores which … underperform the nearby Kroger stores—along with some other assets. This proposed ‘fix’ does not fix anything. The assets included in the proposed divestiture are woefully insufficient to restore the competition eliminated by the Proposed Merger, and … C&S is not well situated to be a viable competitor because of its complete lack of experience as a national-scale retailer, lack of any experience in Colorado, and its lack of the infrastructure needed to replace the competition lost from ACI—infrastructure that Kroger plans to keep for itself.

“Investigation of the Proposed Merger unveiled other unlawful activity demonstrating the risk of additional concentration… Despite being competitors, Kroger and ACI … colluded to suppress the wages and benefits of their workers. In January 2022, unionized employees at 78 King Soopers stores in Colorado went on strike. Fearful that striking workers might flee to ACI, and that … customers would too, Kroger reached out to ACI to make a nefarious bargain. The companies agreed that for the duration of the strike, ACI would not hire King Soopers employees, and that ACI would not solicit King Soopers pharmacy customers. Executives at the very highest levels of both companies knew of this unlawful arrangement and allowed it to go forward. Such ‘no-poach’ and ‘non-solicitation’ agreements are unconscionable and per se unlawful.

“The Proposed Merger should be enjoined and the no-poach and non-solicitation agreements should be enjoined and penalized.

Kroger responses. Statement: “We are disappointed in [AG] Weiser’s premature decision to file a lawsuit while the merger is still under … review, and we remain in … dialogue with the FTC and the other state [AGs]. The merging parties will vigorously defend this in court because we care deeply about our customers and the communities we serve, and this merger will result in the best outcomes for Colorado consumers. Blocking this merger would only serve to strengthen larger, non-unionized retailers like Walmart, Costco and Amazon, by allowing them to maintain and increase their overwhelming and growing dominance of the grocery industry. In contrast, Kroger and Albertsons Companies merging will bring lower prices to more customers, strengthen and create good-paying union jobs, and bring more fresh, affordable food to more communities.”

A Kroger spokesperson added, “It is disheartening for Coloradans that [AG] Weiser would mischaracterize the facts because there was not then, and there is not now, non-solicitation or so-called no-poach agreements between Kroger and Albertsons. Employees at both companies regularly join our teams from—and exit our companies for opportunities to work at—Albertsons, Kroger, Walmart, Amazon, Costco and other retailers as well as restaurants, food service companies, convenience stores, warehouses and more.”

DOJ’s Mekki: Deals with ‘antitrust hair’ are down—‘that’s good for everyone.’ Excerpts from an interview with DOJ’s Doha Mekki in The New York Times DealBook Newsletter, conducted at the Penn Carey Law Antitrust Association’s annual symposium. Mekki is the principal deputy assistant attorney general under DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter.

Regarding noneconomic considerations: “We have a 130-year-old first antitrust law, and a Clayton Act that’s about 110 years old, and nowhere in that statute are we permitted to take into account noneconomic considerations. And that is a good thing, because we as an agency are not really set up to make those judgments.”

On if a deal promising board diversity has any importance: “We are pretty clear that we have no capacity to take into account those kinds of considerations. To the extent that there’s any suspicion about the agencies elevating or being less scrutinizing of these kinds of deals, it is, in fact, the opposite. It is actually the companies putting forward these social values that they intend to promote through their deals. And we’re often saying: ‘Thank you, but no thank you. We can’t consider that.’”

On the potential impact of the presidential election: “This year will be business as usual. We have investigations that we’re really excited about. We have potential enforcement actions that we’re really excited about.”

Regarding the fewer number of deals: “Overall, I would be curious how much of it is antitrust enforcement versus the macro-environment. Anecdotally, the number of deals with antitrust hair is also down — and that’s good for everyone. And it’s also allowed us to pursue a heftier conduct docket, which is a really important part of the agency’s mission.”

On if ‘high-profile losses’ discourage the department: “It’s important how we are losing. I’m not aware of a time when we have lost squarely on the law, even in cases like UnitedHealth Group-Change, where we had not previously pursued a competitively sensitive information theory of harm. The theory stood, right? We’ve tended to lose on how persuasive we are on our facts. We take that feedback in stride and internalize it and try to make better arguments in the future. I think you see it in Penguin Random House-Simon and Schuster, where we leaned into stories about how mergers hurt authors and threaten to harm whose ideas get published. You see it in JetBlue-Spirit. We prefer to win — no doubt. But those hard lessons have really made us better, and we’re going to continue to be better storytellers because that’s our obligation to the public.

NEC’s Brainard: Strong recovery laying solid foundations for the future: From prepared remarks last Thursday of White House National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard at the 40th annual NABE Economic Policy Conference.

“There is broad agreement that the strong U.S. recovery has exceeded expectations following the devastation of the pandemic and the Putin price shock to food and energy. Beyond this, there are preliminary indications the recovery is laying strong foundations for the future … catalyzed by President Biden’s historic legislation…. The U.S. economy is healthier today than was forecast just one year ago … and better on growth and inflation than our peers. … Indeed, headline and core PCE inflation have been around 2 percent for the past half year. Inflation has declined even as growth was around 3 percent over the year, and unemployment remained below 4 percent…

“… [W]e have never had a year where inflation has declined this fast, alongside robust growth and a stable, low unemployment rate. Remember the Bloomberg headline of October 2022: Forecast for US Recession Within Year Hits 100%? Just one year ago, forecasters simply did not believe inflation could fall by this much without a jump in the unemployment rate.

“Rather than necessitating the output and employment costs associated with the Phillips Curve, as some anticipated, the resolution of a perfect storm of supply shocks and other pandemic distortions bears primary responsibility for the rapid decline in inflation. In part, this reflects the Administration’s efforts in partnership with the private sector to fix broken supply chains in areas like ocean shipping, trucking, semiconductors, and at the ports as distortions unwound. As supply chain pressures fell from record highs to pre-pandemic lows, disinflation followed close behind, and the United States experienced both a stronger recovery and faster disinflation than our peers.”

Price Gouging Legislation

Warren, Schakowsky reintroduce bills to combat corporate price gouging. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) last Thursday re-introduced companion Price Gouging Prevention Act bills targeting “giant corporations.”

The legislation would take aim at corporate price gouging by giving the FTC and state attorneys general the authority to enforce a ban on excessive price increases, protecting consumers and small businesses. It would also require publicly traded companies to disclose the reasons behind their decisions to change costs, gross margins and pricing strategies during “periods of exceptional market shock.”

“Giant corporations are squeezing American families for fatter profits. It’s time to give the Biden administration stronger tools,” Warren said. “Senate Democrats and I are renewing our push for a new law to crack down on corporate price gouging.”

Schakowsky said the act “empowers the FTC to hold these price gouging companies accountable when they take advantage of American consumers. People must always come before profits.”

Co-sponsors are Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); and Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Katie Porter (D-CA).

A progressive policy advocate praised the bill. Morgan Harper, American Economic Liberties Project director of policy and advocacy, said that the bill “could prove instrumental in lowering costs for hard working Americans. We are thrilled to see this bill introduced in the Senate and hope that our nation’s leaders will give it the support it deserves.”

Congressional Oversight

House Judiciary Chair Jordan threatens Khan with contempt over Twitter documents. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) told FTC Chair Lina Khan that his panel “may be forced to consider a resolution holding [her] in contempt of Congress” if she didn’t comply by this Wednesday with an April 12 subpoena demanding FTC materials regarding its investigation of Twitter. The committee on June 8 “prioritized the production of certain documents responsive to the subpoena,” Jordan wrote to Khan last Wednesday.

Four months later, Khan produced only a court filing related to Twitter’s request for a federal judge to terminate or modify an FTC consent order, Jordan wrote. “A single, already-public document written for the purpose of defending the FTC in litigation with Twitter is insufficient to comply with the Committee’s subpoena,” which sought “among other things, ‘[a]ll documents and communications between or among [FTC] officials or employees referring or relating to the FTC’s investigations(s) of Twitter.’”

The FTC has received the letter but has no comment, emailed a commission spokesperson.

House Oversight Commitee Chair Comer asks Khan to allow interviews with five key FTC staffers. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) asked FTC Chair Lina Khan to make five senior staffers available for transcribed interviews to help the panel assess the agency’s policies, procedures and activities: Bureau of Economics Director Aviv Nevo, Bureau of Competition Director Henry Liu, Office of International Affairs Deputy Director Jon Nathan, Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Sam Levine and Executive Director David Robbins.

The committee is investigating concerns that the FTC “is abusing its power, disregarding the rule of law, undermining due process, and ignoring federal ethics laws,” Comer wrote to Khan on February 12, seeking a response by yesterday. “The Commission has produced documents on a rolling basis in response” to some committee information requests, “but it has refused to provide documents in response to others and the documents the FTC has provided do not fully address the Committee’s concerns.”

The FTC has received the letter but has no comment, emailed a commission spokesperson.

Events in Next Two Weeks


To access our calendar of all antitrust events, click HERE.

Tuesday, February 20 at 11:30 a.m. EST. FTC commissioners’ virtual closed meeting concerning a nonpublic law enforcement matter.

Tuesday, February 20 at 3:00 p.m. EST. FTC administrative law judge scheduling conference in review of FTC complaint (release) against Novant Health’s proposed purchase of two hospital systems from Community Health Systems (timeline). Audio open to public.

Friday, February 23 at 9:00 a.m. EST. George Mason Law Review antitrust symposium in Arlington, Virginia (video replay expected two weeks later). Speakers on agenda include Senior Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, FTC Bureau of Economics Director Aviv Nevo, New York Attorney General’s Office Assistant AG Beatriz Marquez, Meta Associate General Counsel/VP Nikhil Shanbhag, University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner (ex-counsel to DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter) and Georgetown University law professor Howard Shelanski (former FTC, FCC and White House senior official).

Friday, February 23 at 10:00 a.m. EST. Status conference in DOJ/state case against Google ad-tech practices before U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema in the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia (Recap docket). Judge’s order set jury trial to begin on September 9.

Friday, February 23 at 11:00 a.m. EST. FTC commissioners’ virtual closed meeting concerning a nonpublic law enforcement matter.

February 26 at 10:00 a.m. EST. Supreme Court oral argument (calendar) in Moody v. NetChoice  (22-277) and NetChoice v. Paxton (22-555) cases on Florida and Texas state laws targeting social media platform censorship. Audio livestream here; recording, transcript to be posted later in day.

February 26 at noon EST. Open Markets Institute Zoom event “The Value of News” (RSVP). Antitrust expert Cristinia Caffarra among panelists discussing news media and Big Tech.

February 28 at 2:00 p.m. EST. FTC Associate Director Malini Mathal will speak at a webinar called “The Federal Trade Commission: Looking Back At 2023 And Looking Ahead To 2024 And Beyond.” Event hosted by Ballard Spahr. Registration is free.

March 1 at 1:00 p.m. EST. Motions hearing in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, on Meta constitutional challenge to FTC structure. (Recap docket.)

March 4 at 1:00 p.m. EST. Virtual town hall with FTC Chair Lina Khan and small business leaders, “Small Business vs. Monopoly Power: Our Recent Wins and the Hurdles Ahead,” hosted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Registration.

March 5, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., EDT. FTC will host a virtual workshop entitled “Private Capital, Public Impact: An FTC Workshop on Private Equity in Health Care.” Participants include FTC Chair Lina M. Khan and FTC Commissioners Alvaro Bedoya and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter. Workshop agenda TBD. Will be livestreamed.

Mark Your Calendar

April 9, 6:30 p.m. EDT. Concurrences will host its 20th annual Antitrust Writing Awards on April 9 at the National Press Club. Speakers include Judge Diane Wood, U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals; Olivier Guersent, EC Director-General for Competition; and Juliane Kokott, Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU. Space limited to 200 guests.

April 10-12, 8:00 a.m. each day EDT. American Bar Association Antitrust Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C. Agenda includes events with senior antitrust enforcers, with enforcers’ roundtable, April 12 at 10:00 a.m., featuring FTC Chair Lina Khan, DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter and EC Commissioner Martha Vestager.

May 2-3, 9:00 a.m. each day PST. CompLaw Antitrust West Coast event in San Francisco. Agenda includes events with senior counsels at Google, LinkedIn and Intel, as well as updates on agency enforcement from Chris Carlberg, assistant chief of DOJ antitrust, San Francisco. Registration.

Personnel News

DOJ antitrust staff changes: The Antitrust Division leadership directory no longer lists Brian Young as acting director of litigation, or Caldwell Harrop as international section assistant chief. Katrina Rouse is now listed as acting deputy director of civil enforcement, and Veronica Onyema is now listed as assistant chief in the defense, industrials, and aerospace section.

Other Developments

Russia acquired Starlink terminals from Arab states. Russian forces have reportedly obtained Starlink terminals from Arab nations, as stated by Ukrainian officials. These terminals, procured from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, are allegedly being deployed on the front lines by Russian forces, posing a potential threat to the Ukrainian army’s strategic advantage.

Last Tuesday, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, HUR, disclosed an intercepted audio recording of two individuals speaking Russian discussing the acquisition of Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite internet system. This revelation corroborates suspicions held by U.S. intelligence experts and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that entities in Gulf states are facilitating illicit technology transfers to China and Russia, thus circumventing sanctions.

It is reasonable to think that the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), responsible for export control administration, may have already initiated an investigation into the possible diversion of Starlink terminals to Russia. According to SpaceX, Starlink terminals are not designated for military use, but they are covered under both the International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

U.S. Steel meets USW leadership but no resolution is in sight. The ongoing dispute persisted as executives from U.S. Steel (X) and the United Steelworkers (USW) met on Friday to discuss the planned $14.9 billion acquisition of the company by Nippon Steel, a Japanese steel giant. U.S. Steel CEO Dave Burritt, along with U.S. Steel’s General Counsel and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer Duane Holloway, and Vice President and Chief Labor Relations Officer Karl Kocsis, engaged in talks with USW leaders.

According to a statement by U.S. Steel, “U. S. Steel explained that it fully complied with the Right to Bid provisions of the Basic Labor Agreement (BLA) and that the Nippon Steel agreement secures the long-term future of union jobs. We continue to work with the USW in good faith to resolve this dispute.”

In the preceding month, the USW filed grievances against U.S. Steel concerning the proposed acquisition by Nippon Steel. The union alleged that U.S. Steel violated the successorship clause in its basic labor agreements with the USW. Specifically, the company was accused of insufficient disclosure regarding the financial status of Nippon Steel North America, a U.S.-based subsidiary set to take over ownership of U.S. Steel.

“USS (U.S. Steel) denied the complaint, but we will continue our fight to enforce our contracts,
said USW President David McCall and Mike Millsap, District 7 director and chairman of the Negotiating Committee, in statement emailed to The Capitol Forum. “The Right-to-Bid clause gives us the right to receive all of the information that USS provided to other bidders. The company said in government filings that it never signed a confidentiality agreement with the USW, which is its excuse for not complying with its obligations. In fact, then-International President Tom Conway sent an email to David Burritt on Sept. 8, 2023, that included a draft of an agreement that would have allowed the union to be included in the process while addressing any confidentiality concerns.”

Stonepeak/Textainer cleared by Taiwan regulator. The Taiwan Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) earlier this month approved investment firm Stonepeak’s proposed $2.1 billion acquisition of shipping container lessor Textainer Group (TGH), according to a source familiar with the matter.

The regulator, which reviewed the deal under its fast-track procedure, determined that the tie-up is unlikely to raise any serious competition concerns mainly due to the companies’ low combined market share, the source said. No third parties complained to the TFTC about the transaction.

The companies expect to complete the deal in the first quarter.

Neither company responded to a request for comment.

Antitrust Reading List

Antitrust/M&A Developments

The Verge: DOJ’s Kanter says the antitrust fight against Big Tech is just beginning. AAG says ‘the resonance these issues have is something that I’ve never witnessed in my lifetime’ LINK

Axios – FTC’s Khan: Stop monopolies before they happen LINK … The Record: Citing Meta lawsuit, Khan says more aggressive FTC will not turn ‘blind eye’ to big tech data abuses LINK

Reuters: Occidental says CrownRock deal delayed by FTC requests of ‘everything’ LINK

CNN: Capital One is buying Discover in a $35.3 billion deal LINK

WSJ: Drug Shortages Trigger Probe. FTC questioning whether hospital purchasing groups, drug distributors play a role in low supplies of chemotherapies, other drugs LINK … Fierce Healthcare: HHS, FTC want to know if GPOs, drug wholesalers are fueling generic drug shortages LINK

The Denver Post: Colorado attorney general sues to block Kroger-Albertsons merger LINK

Reuters: Apple, Microsoft win exemptions for iMessage, Bing from EU rules LINK

Politico: The hotel meeting that worries the world’s biggest corporations. A movement to break up corporate monopolies is having a moment — and the push is increasingly political, buzzy and American. LINK

Reuters: US judge sets October 2026 trial for FTC antitrust suit against Amazon LINK

Bloomberg: Disney-Fox-Warner Streaming Deal Faces DOJ Antitrust Review LINK … Next TV: Pay TV Companies, and DOJ, Push Back on Big ‘Spulu’ Sports Streaming Joint Venture LINK

Reuters: ‘Call of Duty’ gamers sue Activision for monopolizing leagues, tournaments LINK

AP: NASCAR teams tell AP they’ve hired top antitrust lawyer on eve of Daytona 500 LINK

Inc.: Disney Takes a $1.5 Billion Stake in Google Antitrust Foe Epic Games LINK

The Verge: FCC commissioner wants to investigate Apple over Beeper Mini shutdown LINK

Reuters: Justice Department says settlement too lax in real estate commission case LINK

Canada’s The Logic: Big business groups pan Liberals’ competition law updates LINK

Defense News: EU regulators must let defense firms merge freely, Leonardo boss urges LINK

The NY Times: The Antitrust Enforcers Aimed at Big Tech. Then Came the Backlash. S. Korea pledged to protect its online platforms from marketplace giants, but lobbyists cry foul play LINK

WSJ: Paramount+ Owner Discussed Combining It with Comcast’s Peacock LINK

AP: Class-action suit says N. America’s major junior hockey system violates antitrust law LINK

Antitrust/M&A Views & Perspective

ProMarket – Eric Posner: Big Business’ Influence in the Decline of Antitrust Enforcement LINK … Diana Moss: Fans Last? How the Fans First Act Hands Live Nation-Ticketmaster More Market Power LINK … Steven Salop: Why Business Should Be More Prosocial, and Ten Guidelines for How LINK … Réka Juhaász and Claudia Steinwender: Setting the Record Straight on Historical Industrial Policy LINK

BIG by Matt Stoller: Fear and Consolidation in the Oil Patch. The consolidation wave among oil and gas producers, from Exxon-Pioneer to Chevron-Hess to Diamondback-Endeavor, is extreme. LINK … It’s Apple’s Vision Pro, The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Apple is showcasing a product that is magic. But behind the glitter is a dangerous empire placing America at risk. LINK

Allen Grunes, Rosa Baum in The American Prospect: Why the Kroger-Albertsons Merger Will Harm Labor; The companies’ choice of an anti-union third party for its divestitures reveals why labor needs a seat at the table in merger remedies LINK

Shiv Gupta in AdExchanger: AI, Antitrust Or Advertisers: What Will Bring Google Down? LINK

The WSJ Editorial Board: The Story Behind Biden’s Trade Failure. Emails show how Lina Khan and the left co-opted Katherine Tai. LINK

AELP Rethink Trade’s Daniel Rangel, Lori Wallach in Tech Policy Press: Trade Pacts Should Not Have Special Secrecy Guarantees for Source Code & Algorithms LINK

Travel Weekly’s Robert Silk: Future airline mergers face turbulence LINK

Bloomberg Law: Senate Antitrust Bills Aim at AI Pricing Collusion LINK

Jessica Patterson in Digital Content Next’s InContext: Amid AI, ads and antitrust, press power holds the spotlight at DCN Summit. LINK

Dominic Young in Press Gazette: News media versus AI: What if we win? AI poses a dual challenge for the media industry: exacerbating decline – or a chance for revival. LINK

Kevin Drum: Here’s what really happened after the T-Mobile/Sprint merger LINK

Jon Schweppe in Newsmax: Trump, Not McConnell, Should Pick Agency Nominees LINK

R Street’s Wesley Davenport: An Economic Argument for Antitrust Inaction and the Consumer Welfare Principle LINK’s Matt Zoller Seitz: The Bait and Switch of Amazon Prime Video Pretending Its Movies Are Free LINK

Artificial Intelligence

AP: Tech companies sign accord to combat AI-generated election trickery LINK

The Hollywood Reporter: Sarah Silverman, Authors See Most Claims Against OpenAI Dismissed by Judge LINK

LA Times: ‘Behind the times’: Washington tries to catch up with AI use in healthcare LINK

Axios: States are introducing 50 AI-related bills per week LINK

Social Media & Other Tech

Vox: The Supreme Court will decide if the government can seize control of YouTube and Twitter. We’re about to find out if the Supreme Court still believes in capitalism. LINK

Vox: Kids Online Safety Act gains enough supporters to pass the Senate. LINK … The Washington Post: Senate poised to pass biggest piece of tech regulation in decades. With more than 60 backers, updated KOSA finally has a path to Senate passage but faces House uncertainty LINK

CNBC: Senators demand Mark Zuckerberg produce details on Instagram’s ‘warning screens’ that allowed users to see potential child sex abuse material LINK

The Washington Post: FTC’s Bedoya says laws to keep teens off social media won’t work LINK

FT: EU to hit Apple with first ever fine in €500mn music streaming penalty LINK

Ohio Capital Journal: Federal judge puts Ohio social media parental consent law on hold LINK

Axios: New York City sues social media companies for negligence, public nuisance LINK

MediaPost: California Can Immediately Enforce Privacy Regs, Court Rules LINK

AP: Biden’s campaign joins TikTok, even as administration warns of national security concerns LINK … CNN: TikTok offers Biden opportunities, risk as he reaches out to young voters LINK

BBC: Facebook £3bn legal action given go-ahead in London LINK

New York Magazine’s Intelligencer: Big Tech Still Has a Big Addiction to China LINK

Yahoo Finance: Big Tech is taking the spoils of the ad resurgence LINK

Boston’s WBUR: How the death of third-party cookies could grow Google’s ad empire LINK

The American Prospect: Breaking a Lifeline to the Internet; A popular federal program helps people with few resources stay connected—but its funding is running out. LINK

Pharma & Health Care

USA Today: Democratic lawmakers call for crack down on drug companies over system that can limit affordable options LINK

KFF Health News: Patients See First Savings From Biden’s Drug Price Push, as Pharma Lines Up Its Lawyers LINK

The American Prospect: Reversing Private Equity’s Looting of Hospitals. The right remedy is to claw back the billion-dollar payday Cerberus Capital and other insiders took out of Steward Health Care and give the money back to the hospitals. LINK … Attack of the Straw Doctors. Amazon and the Adderall pill-mill lobby blitz Oregon to kill a (tame) ‘corporate practice of medicine’ ban LINK

Bloomberg: Ozempic Users Cut Grocery Spending by Up to 9%, Survey Finds LINK


The NY Times: Amazon Argues NLRB Is Unconstitutional. The company made the novel claim, echoing arguments by SpaceX and Trader Joe’s, in a legal filing while fighting a case. LINK

Truthout: Michigan’s Historic “Right-to-Work” Repeal Goes Into Effect. Michigan is the first state in nearly 60 years to repeal the anti-union law LINK … Fast Company: Michigan repealed its right-to-work law, and this data says it may help wages and unions LINK

The American Prospect: Southern Autoworkers Organize, Business Class Tries to Wallop Them; Workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga face a coordinated attack on their organizing, but have learned from two prior losses LINK

Other Matters

The NY Times: Biden Administration Is Said to Slow Early Stage of Shift to Electric Cars. The change to planned rules was an election-year concession to labor unions and auto executives, according to people familiar with the plan LINK

LA Times: What does a California service fee ban mean for diners? Expect higher menu prices — a lot higher LINK

The American Prospect: It’s the Working Class, Stupid. John Judis and Ruy Teixeira want Democrats to focus on working-class interests and back off cultural radicalism LINK … The Gas Industry Squeeze Play. The Biden administration has paused new permits for natural gas export terminals. The industry is fighting back by trying to facilitate gas exports from Mexico LINK