The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division is reorganizing its internal operations, shifting media and entertainment to a section devoted to the telecommunications sector.
The changes unveiled on Thursday by Makan Delrahim, the chief of the division, were outlined along with plans designed to strengthen enforcement of competition laws.
In a statement, Delrahim said the realignment “recognizes how technology trends have changed the way Americans consume financial services as well as media and communications services. It will make the Antitrust Division more efficient and more effective enforcing the antitrust laws.”
The changes come amid increasing scrutiny across the government of the power of tech platforms, which already are the focus of investigations by federal and state officials and on Capitol Hill. The CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple recently testified about their business practices before a House subcommittee.
Under the plan, the Antitrust Division’s telecom and broadband section will be expanded to concentrate as well as on media and entertainment. Another section will be devoted to financial services, fintech and banking, while another sector will be devoted solely to technology markets and platforms.
Delrahim said that the changes will be “better for companies under investigation and, more importantly, leads to outcomes that benefit the American consumer.”
The DOJ also announced the creation of an office of decree enforcement and compliance, which will have the primary responsibility of enforcing judgments and consent decrees in civil cases. The office also will be the Antitrust Division’s main contact for those have complaints about potential violations of the final judgments. That has been an issue in some entertainment mergers, such as a recent settlement of claims that Live Nation violated the terms of its merger with Ticketmaster.
The new office will be led by Lawrence Reicher, who most recently served as counsel to the assistant attorney general. He has led an initiative to review and terminate consent decrees that are deemed outdated given the changes in the marketplace. A federal judge recently gave the green light to the DOJ’s termination of the 71-year-old Paramount consent decrees, which restricted conduct between major studio distributors and exhibitors, and is currently reviewing an even older decree that guides music licensing organizations ASCAP and BMI.
The Antitrust Division also is creating a civil conduct task force, which will work across the civil sections to identify areas that require investigation beyond pending merger reviews.
Delrahim said that the task force “will energize and prioritize non-merger civil enforcement. Concentrating responsibility will mean greater accountability for these important investigations that lack the statutory deadlines of many merger investigations.”
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