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Give Facebook credit. We managed to do what no one else could – bring Republican and Democratic politicians together. The Federal Trade Commission and 46 states yesterday sued Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for a split, and an amazingly bipartisan chorus of political voices has called in support for the move. This case is possibly the only smooth handover that has come from the Trump administration to the Biden administration.
And let's be clear: the case is hardly a slam dunk. Facebook quickly put forward the strongest argument against it: The agency approved both acquisitions in 2012 and 2014. Have the facts changed? If it was okay then, why not now?
What has changed, of course, is the political environment. Facebook itself has gone from being a tech darling to Darth Vader – accused by Republicans and Democrats alike of destroying democracy. In its efforts to fix the problem, the company has only further angered Republicans – who believe the Left Coast company has it for them. However, a democratic government could prove to be an even bigger existential threat as Democrats have been flirting with a new, more expansive approach to antitrust policy for several years. You now have your test case.
If successful, the case will be the biggest antitrust deal since AT&T fell apart. Even if it fails, it'll be a hell of a show. I oversaw the Wall Street Journal's coverage of the Microsoft antitrust case in the 1990s and I can vouch for the fireworks display that comes with so much money and corporate power at stake. Many lawyers and lobbyists will earn their retirement with it.
More news below. Also check out our coverage of the other big event of the day – DoorDash's IPO with no profit, which rose 85% after it started trading to a reported valuation of around $ 72 billion. (The jump in price has, of course, been portrayed as a good thing rather than a price mistake by investment bankers.) Tomorrow, Airbnb is undoubtedly hoping for a similar drawback with a price of $ 68 on a valuation of $ 47 billion. Who knew so much money could be made amid a global pandemic.