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Time to concede that the EU’s antitrust action was about Google, not America

October 21, 2020, 10:14 AM UTC

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Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.

Europe provides an entertaining vantage point from which to view the U.S. Department of Justice’s (very) long-awaited antitrust broadside against Google.

It really wasn’t so long ago that the EU was being accused of bias against American companies by whacking Google with what turned out to be the first of three major fines (totaling more than $9 billion) over its antitrust abuses. At the time, in 2017, lobbyists at the U.S. Consumer Technology Association said the actions of EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager were “driven by politics and protectionist policies that harm open-competition practices, consumers, and unfairly target American companies.”

“She hates the United States perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met,” complained President Trump of Vestager when the third fine rolled around a couple years later. “She’s suing all our companies. We should be suing Google and Facebook, and all that, which perhaps we will.”

And now Trump’s administration, backed by 11 Republican-led states, is indeed suing Google. It’s fair to say none of them hate the U.S. and its corporate titans, yet elements of their assault are really pretty similar to the EU’s complaints, particularly the accusation that Google entrenches its search monopoly by forcing manufacturers to use its own flavor of Android if they also want to use its Play app store and other key services. The DOJ even cites the crowding-out of Amazon’s failed Fire OS Android variant, just like Vestager did.

There are huge differences between the cases, of course—for one thing, U.S. antitrust suits have to demonstrate evidence of negative impacts on consumers, while in the EU it’s sufficient to say that a market-dominant player’s policies have the potential to cause consumer harm. But nonetheless, it should now be clear that attacks on Google are motivated by its size and behavior, rather than its country of origin.

For more Fortune comprehensive coverage of the DOJ suit, check out Aaron Pressman’s explanation of the key points, Danielle Abril’s rundown of Google’s defense, David Z. Morris’s piece on possible remedies for the alleged abuses, and Robert Hackett’s report on reaction from politicians and Google’s rivals.

Also, Fortune’s latest Most Powerful Women International list is out today (the U.S. list came out earlier this week.) Last year’s No. 1, Banco Santander executive chair Ana Botín, is down to No. 3, and GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley has retaken the top spot.

The U.K.’s GSK is of course one of the big hopes (in collaboration with French competitor Sanofi) in the race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s also worth noting that this year’s No. 2 place goes to Jessica Tan, co-CEO and executive director of China’s Ping An Group—an insurer whose telehealth and smart-city arms are both benefiting from the behavioral changes that result from the pandemic.

More news below.

David Meyer


Biden picks

Former eBay CEO (and current Quibi CEO) Meg Whitman is reportedly among the Republican figures that Joe Biden is considering for certain cabinet posts, should he win the election in a couple weeks' time, along with former Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Bringing a couple Republicans on board would be something of an olive branch, but the progressive wing of the Democratic Party may not be amused. Politico

Huawei effect

Who's benefiting from governments shunning Huawei in their telecoms networks? Ericsson, for one—the Swedish outfit (the global number three player, behind Huawei and Nokia) has reported a 38% jump in third-quarter adjusted profit, largely off the back of increasing market share in Europe and (obviously not a country that's banned Huawei!) China. CEO Borje Ekholm said the "footprint gains" offset the negative impact of the pandemic on operator capex. Bloomberg

Goldman settlement

Goldman Sachs will reportedly settle with the Justice Department, perhaps this week, over its role in the Malaysian 1MDB government fund scandal. According to reports, one of the bank's Asian subsidiaries will plead guilty to ignoring signs of the fund's looting in order to reap tasty fees, and Goldman will pay around $2.8 billion. Wall Street Journal

Netflix plunge

Netflix's share price fell more than 6.5% in late trading after the streamer missed Wall Street estimates with its latest results. Investors are worried about Netflix's ability to keep growing as pandemic lockdowns fade (though looking at the latest infection numbers, perhaps they're being a bit overoptimistic about that happening.) Fortune


Sinovac promise

Brazilian officials say CoronaVac, the experimental vaccine from China's Sinovac, is the safest thus far of all the candidate COVID-19 vaccines that have been tested in the country. Brazil is one of the world's preeminent testing grounds for a vaccine that could stem the pandemic, and other candidates being tested there include those from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Sinopharm. Fortune

NASA mission

NASA's OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft successfully made a brief touchdown on the asteroid Bennu. At the time of writing early Wednesday morning, it is not yet known whether the spacecraft successfully collected rocky pieces from Bennu's surface, which is what the $1 billion mission aims to achieve. CNBC

Brexit intervention

Europe's big auto firms have asked the EU to ease the requirements for their cars to reap the benefits of a potential EU-U.K. trade deal, because the bloc's current position is "not in the long-term interests of the EU automotive industry." Of course, it is increasingly unlikely that there will actually be a trade deal anyway, but the reported letter indicates how skittish European industry is getting about Brexit's fallout. Financial Times

Protecting democracy

Fortune 500 CEOs really ought to lend their names to the Leadership Now Project statement promoting election integrity, writes labor and human rights consultant Bennett Freeman in a piece for Fortune: "American business leaders should recognize that they have an existential stake in the rule of law and accountable governance, in our civil rights and liberties, and ultimately in the credibility and durability of our democratic institutions that protect us from autocracy." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.