Senators seek ‘serious’ fines for antitrust violations

Politics

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) questions U.S. Attorney General William Barr as he testifies during a hearing on “the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal introduced legislation on Friday to allow harsher penalties for companies that violate antitrust law, following a Justice Department probe into alleged anticompetitive behavior by big tech.

The “Monopolization Deterrence Act” by the Democratic senators would allow the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to seek civil penalties for monopolization offenses under U.S. antitrust law, Klobuchar’s office said in a statement.

U.S. antitrust enforcers are scrutinizing tech giants Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google, Amazon.com and Apple Inc to probe allegations that they engage in anticompetitive behavior.

Klobuchar, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, said in the statement the legislation would allow “serious financial consequences” to combat the United States’ “major monopoly problem.”

Under the bill, the penalties could be as high as 15% of the company’s total U.S. revenue.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another Democratic presidential candidate, has put up billboards in tech-heavy Silicon Valley calling to “BREAK UP BIG TECH.”

It was not immediately apparent if the legislation has a counterpart in the House of Representatives.

Reporting by Bryan Pietsch; Editing by Susan Thomas

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