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jerryking : corporate_concentration   12

Big Tech in hiring spree for looming antitrust battles | Financial Times
Kiran Stacey in Washington DECEMBER 23, 2018 Print this page6
Big technology and telecoms companies have embarked on a hiring spree of former antitrust officials as their industries gear up for what experts warn could be an “existential” battle over whether they should be broken up.

In the last few months, Facebook, Amazon and AT&T have all hired senior antitrust officials from the US Department of Justice as they confront a new generation of regulators who are interested in preventing concentrations of economic power......Many of the biggest US technology companies have endured a difficult year, facing allegations of not protecting customer data, failing to prevent Russian interference in American democracy and showing political bias.

In response, several have beefed up their lobbying operations in Washington as they look to engage more with politicians, having previously preferred to operate under the radar. .....Experts say the hirings reflect a growing belief that competition policy could become the next significant political battleground....The European Commission has investigated US technology companies for alleged anti-competitive behaviour. Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, is bringing cases against Google and is looking into Amazon.

Such cases have been more difficult to pursue in the US, where the law is focused more on whether anti-competitive behaviour is keeping prices artificially high.

A group of younger progressive regulators and politicians have argued in recent years, however, that technology companies that give their services away for free but dominate their markets should come in for as much attention.....Rohit Chopra, a Federal Trade Commissioner in his mid-30s, for example, recently hired Lina Khan, a 29-year-old policy thinker who has argued that large technology companies can both bring prices down and be harmful to society in general.
Amazon  antitrust  AT&T  Big_Tech  competition_policy  corporate_concentration  Department_of_Justice  FAANG  Facebook  FTC  hiring  Lina_Khan  lawyers  lobbying  market_power  market_concentration  monopolies  platforms  regulation  regulators  revolving_door  under_the_radar 
december 2018 by jerryking
The Curse of Bigness by Timothy Wu — why size matters
NOVEMBER 15, 2018 | Financial Times | by Rana Foroohar
The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, by Timothy Wu, Columbia Global Reports, RRP$14.99, 170 pages.

The hero of the book is Louis Brandeis, the advocate, reformer and Supreme Court Justice who grew up around the mid-to-late 1800s in Louisville, a diverse and decentralised mid-sized American town that Brandeis praised as “idyllic” and free from the “curse of bigness”...... It was a place where small farmers, retailers, professionals and manufacturers all knew each other, worked together, and had the sort of shared moral framework that Adam Smith believed was a key to well-functioning markets.

But by the time Brandeis himself became a lawyer in Boston, oligarchs such as John D Rockefeller and JP Morgan were building empires more powerful than governments (indeed, they often had paid politicians in their pockets — President William McKinley actually acknowledged that Wall Street rather than Washington had control over the economy). Their growing ventures — like Morgan’s railroad monopoly or Rockefeller’s oil dynasty — were neither moral nor even efficient. But the tycoons ....had bought the legislatures, and there was no one powerful enough to reel them in. Brandeis took them on, via a case against Morgan’s New Haven Railway, and exposed the underside of monopoly power — cartel pricing, bribes to officials, accounting fraud and so on....Brandeis believed giant corporations tended to rob people of their humanity....This approach, which was brought into the mainstream by conflicted trust buster Teddy Roosevelt (who both loved and loathed power, but wanted to see corporations curbed by government) lasted through the 1960s. But with the rise of conservative Chicago School academics, in particular Robert Bork, the federal justice who turned the “consumer welfare” ideology of his mentor Aaron Director into a new antitrust philosophy with his book The Antitrust Paradox in 1978, the notion that too much corporate power alone was problematic was abandoned. Antitrust become technocratic and weak, pegged to the idea that as long as companies reduced prices for consumers, they could be as big as they wanted.

That has, of course, allowed any number of industries, from airlines to media to pharmaceuticals, to reach unprecedented levels of concentration.
antitrust  books  book_reviews  Chicago_School  corporate_concentration  FAANG  Rana_Foroohar  Robert_Bork  Tim_Wu 
december 2018 by jerryking
How to Survive the Next Era of Tech (Slow Down and Be Mindful)
Nov. 28, 2018 | The New York Times | By Farhad Manjoo.
We live in unpredictable times. The unlikely happens. Be careful. Go slow. Three new maxims for surviving the next era of tech. I hope you heed them; the world rides on your choices.

(1) Don’t just look at the product. Look at the business model.
(2) Avoid feeding the giants. Manjoo's point that the lack of competition is curbing innovation.
(3) Adopt late. Slow down. Slow your roll--be a late adopter (slow to adopt shiny, new things).
Farhad_Manjoo  howto  mindfulness  Slow_Movement  technology  turbulence  late_adopters  rules_of_the_game  business_models  corporate_concentration  FAANG  platforms 
november 2018 by jerryking
This is the age of the Microsoft and Amazon economy
Tim Harford

the big digital players: Google dominates search; Facebook is the Goliath of social media; Amazon rules online retail. But, as documented in a new working paper by five economists, American business is in general becoming more concentrated.

David Autor and his colleagues looked at 676 industries in the US — from cigarettes to greeting cards, musical instruments to payday lenders. They found that for the typical industry in each of six sectors — manufacturing, retail, finance, services, wholesale and utilities/transportation — the biggest companies are producing a larger share of output..... “superstar firms” tend to be more efficient. They sell more at a lower cost, so they enjoy a larger profit margin. ....Superstar firms are highly productive and achieve more with less. Because of this profitability, more of the value added by the company flows to shareholders and less to workers. And what happens in these groups will tend to be reflected in the economy as a whole, because superstar firms have an increasingly important role.
Amazon  Big_Tech  corporate_concentration  David_Autor  economics  economies_of_scale  Facebook  Microsoft  monopolies  monopsony  network_effects  platforms  retailers  superstars  Tim_Harford 
january 2018 by jerryking
What the Tax Bill Fails to Address: Technology’s Tsunami -
DEC. 20, 2017 | The New York Times | Farhad Manjoo.

Manjoo posits that the Republican tax bill is the wrong fix for the wrong problem, given how tech is altering society and the economy....The bill (the parachute) does little to address the tech-abetted wave of economic displacement (the tsunami) that may be looming just off the horizon. And it also seems to intensify some of the structural problems in the tech business, including its increasing domination by five giants — Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Alphabet, Google’s parent company — which own some of the world’s most important economic platforms.....some in Silicon Valley think the giants misplayed their hand in the legislation. In pursuing short-term tax advantages, they missed a chance to advocate policies that might have more broadly benefited many of their customers — and improved their images, too......This gets back to that looming tsunami. Though many of the economy’s structural problems predate the last decade’s rise of the tech behemoths, the innovations that Silicon Valley has been working on — things like e-commerce, cloud storage, artificial intelligence and the general digitization of everything and everyone around you — are some of the central protagonists in the economic story of our age.

Among other economic concerns, these innovations are implicated in the rise of inequality; the expanding premium on education and skills; the decimation and dislocation of retail jobs; the rising urban-rural divide, and spiking housing costs in cities; and the rise of the “gig” economy of contract workers who drive Ubers and rent out their spare bedrooms on Airbnb....technology is changing work in a few ways. First, it’s altering the type of work that people do — for instance, creating a boom in e-commerce warehouse jobs in large metro areas while reducing opportunities for retail workers in rural areas. Technology has also created more uncertainty around when people work and how much they’ll get paid.
Farhad_Manjoo  preparation  job_loss  job_displacement  Silicon_Valley  tax_codes  corporate_concentration  platforms  income_inequality  short-sightedness  e-commerce  cloud_computing  artificial_intelligence  gig_economy  precarious  automation  uncertainty  universal_basic_income  digitalization  Apple  Amazon  Netflix  Microsoft  Facebook  Alphabet  Google  inconsistent_incomes  Big_Tech  FAANG 
december 2017 by jerryking
The Amazon-Walmart Showdown That Explains the Modern Economy - The New York Times
Neil Irwin @Neil_Irwin JUNE 16, 2017

The decision by Amazon and Walmart to compete for my grocery business — as well as for space in my closet — is a tiny battle in a war to dominate a changing global economy.

And for companies that can’t compete on price and technology, it could cost them the shirt off their backs.....[Amazon's purchase of high-end grocery chain Whole Foods places it] on a collision course with Walmart to try to be the predominant seller of pretty much everything you buy.

Each one is trying to become more like the other — Walmart by investing heavily in its technology, Amazon by opening physical bookstores and now buying physical supermarkets. But this is more than a battle between two business titans. Their rivalry sheds light on the shifting economics of nearly every major industry, replete with winner-take-all effects and huge advantages that accrue to the biggest and best-run organizations, to the detriment of upstarts and second-fiddle players.....in turn...this has more worrying implications for jobs, wages and inequality.

Amazon vs. Walmart

Both want to sell everything!!!!

Walmart is buying Bonobos, an omnichannel innovator. Its website and online customer service are excellent, and it operates stores in major cities where you can try on garments and order items to be shipped directly. Because all the actual inventory is centralized, the stores themselves can occupy minimal square footage. The acquisition helps Walmart build expertise in the very areas where it is trying to gain on Amazon.

Walmart and Amazon have had their sights on each other for years, each aiming to be the dominant seller of goods via omnichannel.

Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods helps it to understand the grocery business which has a whole different set of challenges from the types of goods that Amazon has specialized in heretofore.

A Positive Returns-to-Scale World
The apparel business has long been a highly competitive industry in which countless players could find a niche.....any shirt-maker that tried to get too big rapidly faced diminishing returns.It would have to pay more and more to lease the real estate for far-flung stores, and would have to outbid competitors to hire all the experienced shirt-makers. The expansion wouldn’t offer any meaningful cost savings and would entail a lot more headaches trying to manage it all....in the digital economy, rather than reflecting those diminishing returns to scale, show positive returns to scale: The biggest companies have a huge advantage over smaller players. That tends to tilt markets toward a handful of players or even a monopoly....The apparel industry...is moving in the direction of being like the software business (high fixed costs, zero variable costs, enormous returns to scale)..... the reason why Walmart and Amazon are so eager get into the shirt business is because retailers know that they need to figure out how to manage sophisticated supply chains connecting Southeast Asia with stores in big American cities so that they rarely run out of product. They need mobile apps and websites that offer a seamless user experience so that nothing stands between a would-be purchaser and an order....Larger companies that are good at supply chain management and technology can spread those more-or-less fixed costs around more total sales, enabling them to keep prices lower than a niche player and entrench their advantage....large companies will invest in automation/robotics...the future of clothing/apparel might be a handful of companies with the very expensive shirt-making robots---and everyone else shut out in the cold.

What It Means for the Economy

A relative few winners are taking a disproportionate share of business in a wide range of industries....in turn may help explain why the income gap has widened in recent years. How much on income inequality is driven by shifting technology — as opposed to changing corporate behavior, or loose antitrust policy — is an open debate.
increasing_returns_to_scale  winner-take-all  fixed_costs  variable_costs  Amazon  Wal-Mart  Whole_Foods  retailers  economics  Bonobos  shirts  mens'_clothing  omnichannel  apparel  digital_economy  automation  robotics  competitive_landscape  market_concentration  barbell_effect  income_inequality  antitrust  market_power  corporate_concentration  grocery  fresh_produce  supermarkets  large_companies  UX  inventory-free  global_economy 
june 2017 by jerryking
Where Have All the Black-Owned Businesses Gone? - The Atlantic
BRIAN S. FELDMAN MAY 1, 2017

The last 30 years also have brought the wholesale collapse of black-owned independent businesses and financial institutions that once anchored black communities across the country. In 1985, 60 black-owned banks were providing financial services to their communities; today, just 23 remain. In 11 states where black-owned banks had headquarters in 1994, not a single one is still in business. Of the 50 black-owned insurance companies that operated during the 1980s, today just two remain.

Over the same period, tens of thousands of black-owned retail establishments and local service companies also have disappeared, having gone out of business or been acquired by larger companies. Reflecting these developments, working-age black Americans have become far less likely to be their own boss than in the 1990s. The per-capita number of black employers, for example, declined by some 12 percent just between 1997 and 2014.......the decline in entrepreneurship and business ownership among black Americans also is cause for concern. ...market concentration has played a role in suppressing opportunity and in displacing local economies. ...........The role of market concentration in inhibiting black-owned businesses is also troubling because of the critical role that such enterprises have played in organizing and financing the struggle for civil rights in America......The decline of black-owned independent businesses traces back to many causes, but a major one that has been little noted was the decline in the enforcement of anti-monopoly and fair-trade laws beginning in the late 1970s......Bob Dickerson, the CEO of the Birmingham Business Resource Center in Alabama, says, “Had our institutions and businesses been maintained, had that money been plowed back into our communities, it could have meant a world of difference.”

The role of market concentration in driving down the number of black-owned independent businesses becomes all the more concerning when one considers some mostly forgotten history. In principles, people, and tactics, the fight for black civil rights, going back to before the Civil War, was often deeply intertwined and aligned with America’s anti-monopoly traditions......The story of how the struggle for civil rights intertwined and intersected historically with the struggle against monopoly provides a lesson for the future. It suggests a need to recognize how political independence connects with economic independence in the struggle for social justice. Without freedom from domination in one sphere, there is no freedom in the other.
African-Americans  anticompetitive_behaviour  anti-monopoly  antitrust  black-owned  business  civil_rights  collapse-anxiety  corporate_concentration  economic_clout  economic_inclusion  economic_independence  enforcement  fair-trade  Jim_Crow  market_concentration  market_power  New_Deal  political_independence  segregation  societal_collapse 
may 2017 by jerryking
With Competition in Tatters, the Rip of Inequality Widens - The New York Times
Eduardo Porter
ECONOMIC SCENE JULY 12, 2016

The new merger amounts to another step in the long decline of competition in many American industries.

It is a decline that stunts entrepreneurship, hinders workers’ mobility and slows productivity growth. Slowing this trend has emerged as a tempting new avenue to address the plight of a beleaguered working class. Reviving flagging American competition might even help stop America’s ever-widening inequality.

In April, President Obama issued an executive order calling on government agencies to look for ways to bolster competition in the industries they monitor.....There is plenty of evidence that corporate concentration is on the rise. Mr. Furman and Mr. Orszag report that between 1997 and 2007 the market share of the 50 largest companies increased in three-fourths of the broad industry sectors followed by the census......Studies have found increased concentration in agricultural businesses and wireless communications as well.....but is competition policy about increasing the economy’s efficiency, or is it about changing the distribution of the spoils....should antitrust be a major tool for addressing inequality?....How did the American economy get so concentrated? Technology surely helped. Tech giants like Google and Facebook benefit from economies of scale and network effects. ....Government watchdogs also messed up....How to fix corporate concentration? In industries perceived to be fairly concentrated, presume future mergers will be anticompetitive, take the burden of proof off the regulator’s shoulders and putting the onus on the merging companies to prove it is not....Regulations can also be tool: How about demanding that the FDA approve generic drugs more quickly?
competition  antitrust  monopolies  anticompetitive_behaviour  collusion  market_power  corporate_concentration  economies_of_scale  network_effects  platforms  income_inequality  regulators  regulation  competition_policy 
july 2016 by jerryking
Google's Turn to Quake? - WSJ.com
April 4, 2012 | WSJ | By ROBERT HAHN.

Google's Turn to Quake? IBM and Microsoft fought antitrust authorities on multiple continents, even as they lost their fleeting dominance....Antitrust policy is built on the notion that market concentration, collusion or nasty behavior toward rivals undermines efficiency by allowing producers to charge more and to block innovation. That's not a bad rule of thumb for "old economy" industries. Before Japanese auto makers broke through the barriers, Detroit charged too much, divvying up most of the surplus between workers and managers. Worse—much worse—auto industry technology and productivity stagnated, as stakeholders sheltered their pockets of privilege from the winds of change.

But high-tech industries in general, and information technology industries in particular, are an entirely different sort of beast. Market concentration and huge profits are typically a consequence of economies of scale and returns to intellectual property, not monopoly power. (It costs no more to produce 10 million copies of Microsoft Office than 10 copies.) And while the management of the current crop of winning companies may be as eager as monopolists of yore to bar the doors to rivals, rapid technological change denies them the opportunity.
Google  IBM  Microsoft  antitrust  competition  competitive_landscape  increasing_returns_to_scale  collusion  market_power  corporate_concentration  monopolies  economies_of_scale  intellectual_property  automotive_industry  productivity  winner-take-all  market_concentration  technological_change  returns_to_intellectual_property 
april 2012 by jerryking
Meet the New Monopoly, Same as the Old One
November 19, 2010 | Technology Review | By Brian Bergstein.
A New book argues that concentration of power is an inevitable result
of new communications networks.
Tim_Wu  monopolies  Information_Rules  corporate_concentration  market_power 
november 2010 by jerryking

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