NEWSFLASH: AAG Kanter’s Conflicts of Interest Highlighted As DOJ Leader Targets Established Antitrust Principles That Would Benefit Former Clients
In a recent piece in The Washington Examiner, political strategist Matt Mackowiak discusses Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter’s former work for clients such as Microsoft, and how his myriad conflicts of interest call into question his departure from the pro-consumer antitrust standard designed to “protect the public from high costs.”
Mackowiak reports that Kanter’s conflicts of interest have received criticism from some lawmakers: “They also lamented his comments slamming his former clients’ rivals, arguing that Kanter’s previous work presented a clear conflict of interest for our country’s top antitrust official. As it turns out, Kanter’s critics were right. Kanter has used his position to further the interests of his former clients, launching major antitrust investigations into companies such as UnitedHealth, a Cigna competitor, and Google, a rival to Microsoft.”
Assistant Attorney General Kanter’s prior work has prompted questions of conflicts before, resulting in a year-long ban before the U.S. Department of Justice ultimately cleared him to work on Google matters. Representing Google competitors, like Yelp and Microsoft, in private practice long before his time at the Justice Department, Mr. Kanter has been influencing government action against Google on behalf of his clients in what can be characterized as “almost a campaign or a crusade,” according to Kanter’s former law partner Rick Rule.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Kanter developed a reputation as a Google critic and proponent of more active antitrust enforcement while working with clients such as Microsoft and Yelp Inc. as co-chairman of the antitrust group at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. He left the firm in 2020 to start his own practice.”
— The article adds: “Mr. Kanter had been temporarily barred from working on Google cases while the Justice Department considered the company’s petition.” and notes “It couldn’t immediately be learned why the Justice Department cleared Mr. Kanter to work on Google-related cases, or why it has taken a year to do so.”
A Politico profile highlights: “From his private practice, Kanter helped influence the most significant DOJ action since its case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago: An earlier challenge to Google’s dominance in online search. Though filed by former Attorney General William Barr in 2020, Kanter helped shape the suit by representing Google competitors including small players like Yelp and tech giants like Microsoft.”
— Rule adds: “Sometimes that means defending client’s deals, sometimes it’s coming up with a case against Google.”
— He continues: “It appealed to [Kanter’s] progressive instincts, [and he] took it beyond just a problem to be solved on behalf of a client, to almost a campaign or a crusade. That’s really what helped him with being a leader in this sort of offensive strategy.”
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