Topline: The fortunes of the founders of Google, Facebook and Amazon tumbled more than $16 billion dollars combined on Monday after reports surfaced that big tech firms may be the target of several antitrust probes.
- Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are $2.6 billion and $2.7 billion poorer, respectively. Brin’s net worth is now $45.6 billion while Page is worth $48.4 billion, according to Forbes’ Billionaires Real Time Ranking.
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune is $4.8 billion smaller. His net worth is now $61.2 billion.
- Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was the biggest loser, with his net worth dropping $6.5 billion. But he’s still the wealthiest person in the world with a net worth that Forbes pegs at $139.8 billion.
What exactly happened? On Monday, several news outlets reported that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission decided which agencies have jurisdiction over any possible antitrust cases against Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple.
After the news broke, shares of each company fell sharply.
The DOJ will handle Google and Apple probes, while the FTC will investigate Facebook and Amazon. The agencies haven’t opened up any official inquiries—but the escalation shows that the government is seriously considering taking action to break up Big Tech.
Aggressive U.S. antitrust action against Big Tech moved abruptly from speculation to reality in the past 72 hours, as both Congress and regulatory agencies ramped up investigations, Axios’ David McCabe writes.
- Why it matters: This one-two punch could result in the firms being broken up. Even if it doesn’t, it could seriously distract the platforms from growing their businesses.
- Microsoft learned that the hard way after its antitrust fight with Washington two decades ago.
What’s new: The House Judiciary Committee said yesterday that it is launching a bipartisan investigation into whether Big Tech platforms are engaged in monopolistic practices.
- A person familiar with the investigation said that, in addition to public hearings, the inquiry would include requesting documents from a wide range of companies.
- That could allow the committee to receive information from small competitors of the tech giants who would otherwise be wary of testifying publicly.
- “Given the growing tide of concentration and consolidation across our economy, it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition,” House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).
Between the lines: The investigation could help lawmakers develop a factual record to shape legislation overhauling the nation’s antitrust laws, which reformers say are inadequate for reining in corporate power as it exists today.
The announcement followed reporting that the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission split up investigations into anti-competitive behavior by tech giants:
- DOJ got Apple and Google.
- The FTC got Amazon and Facebook.
Our thought bubble: Once inquiries like this get started, they develop their own momentum. These companies likely face years of entanglement.