FTC Mulls Facebook Lawsuit as Staffers Support Antitrust Case
By Brent Kendall and John D. McKinnon
WASHINGTON -- Federal Trade Commission staff members are
recommending that the agency bring an antitrust case against
Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, but
commissioners haven't yet reached a decision.
The five-member FTC met privately via videoconference Thursday
to discuss next steps, without taking action, the people said.
The FTC has spent more than a year looking into complaints that
Facebook has been using its powerful market position to stifle
competition, part of a broader effort by U.S. antitrust authorities
to examine the conduct of big technology companies.
The FTC listed Thursday's meeting on its public calendar but
didn't reveal the topic, saying it was discussing a nonpublic law
enforcement matter. The commissioners, three Republicans and two
Democrats, can't all talk about an enforcement action as a group
unless they announce a formal meeting.
The Wall Street Journal reported in September that the FTC was
gearing up to file a possible antitrust lawsuit against Facebook by
year-end, with staffers preparing a draft complaint. With this
week's discussions, the commission could be headed toward a
decision in as soon as the next few weeks, the people familiar with
the matter said.
Staffers have recommended the FTC take action against Facebook,
the people said, but details about the commission's legal theories
couldn't immediately be learned.
The company last year disclosed it was under investigation by
the FTC, and the Journal has previously reported that one focus of
the agency's probe is the company's past acquisitions of potential
competitors, such as photo sharing service Instagram.
Facebook is still in the process of making its case to the
commission, even as the probe has been progressing into its late
stages, and recent efforts by FTC staff have included taking
testimony from Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, something the
commission didn't do during a prior probe of the company's privacy
That matter resulted in a record-breaking $5 billion
The commission is facing political complexities, particularly
with the Nov. 3 election looming. Republican Chairman Joseph Simons
during his tenure has at times faced challenges in building
coalitions among his Republican and Democratic colleagues.
The commission's meeting Thursday comes two days after the
Justice Department, which shares enforcement authority, filed an
antitrust lawsuit alleging Alphabet Inc.'s Google uses
anticompetitive tactics to preserve a monopoly for its flagship
search engine and related advertising business.
Google denied the allegations and said the department's case was
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 22, 2020 21:34 ET (01:34 GMT)
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