Aiming at the Wrong Targets: Whether a Tech-Focused Antitrust Prosecution Strategy Will Combat Inequality

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In recent years, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have seen a staggering 101 percent increase in first requests for merger approvals over pre-pandemic levels. In response, President Biden’s $5.8 trillion 2023 budget proposal requests a staggering increase in the DOJ and FTC’s Antitrust divisions by $88 and $139 million, respectively. These proposals include requests by FTC Chairwoman Khan to reallocate resources towards programs that focus on technology, such as Privacy and Identity Protection and Technology Enforcement. With this hefty price tag, DOJ and FTC leadership must choose their cases wisely.

For some, enforcement is critical to combat “Big Tech” companies that weaponize their “vast wealth, power, and sophistication” to architect a competitive environment that perpetuates inequality. For others, the reallocation of resources toward prosecuting tech companies will cause more harm than good. Analyzing demographic consumer data for two tech companies—Apple and Amazon—that were subject to public scrutiny in 2021, I conclude that prosecutorial discretion with a focus on tech companies that provide consumer goods will do little to combat inequality because upper-middle-class consumers are the primary consumers of these technologies.