Biden signs executive order to curb anti-competitive industries

The wide-ranging order aims to promote competition within a range of sectors and follows an uptick in M&A activity

July 19, 2021

US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order targeted at clamping down on “anti-competitive” practices in the corporate world and labour markets. 

The wide-ranging order, which contains 72 recommendations and actions involving over a dozen federal agencies, is designed to restructure corporate consolidation and antitrust laws, a White House fact sheet states

“The heart of American capitalism is a simple idea: Open and fair competition,” Biden said ahead of signing the order. 

“Competition keeps the economy moving and keeps it growing. Fair competition is why capitalism has been the world’s greatest force for prosperity and growth.” 

In a tweet published after signing the order, President Biden said “Let me be clear: capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation.” 

Measures announced by President Biden target sectors such as agriculture, banking, consumer finance, healthcare, transport, and technology, with specific agencies and institutions tasked with specific elements. 

There has been a sharp increase in merger and acquisition activity in the past 18 months, partly driven by the relaxation of competition laws by the Trump administration. S&P Global recently reported that monthly M&A in the US banking sector hit a two-year high in June 2021. 

Among other things, federal regulators are to be encouraged to create new regulations around data collection and surveillance by technology companies, make it easier for workers to change jobs by limiting non-compete agreements, and to allow the importing of cheaper drugs from Canada. 

Several technology giants recently came under fire from the Securities and Exchange Commission over failure to include ESG reporting in financial reports. 

The order also encourages the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to enforce antitrust laws and to challenge “prior bad mergers that past administrations did not previously challenge”. 

The order comes only a few weeks after the House Judiciary committee passed sweeping tech antitrust reforms. 

A White House Competition Council, led by the Director of the National Economic Council is to be established with the mission of monitoring progress and to coordinate the government’s response to the rising power of large corporations. 

Last Updated: 23 July 2021