10 June 2024

Headline of the Day

The Harvey Weinstein of Antitrust

Matt Stoller, talking about Josh Wright, who was one of the shock troops Robert Bork's deceptive arguments against anti-trust.  Wright has also been extorting his students for sexual favors for years.

This lovely fellow has also been Google's go-to guy in opposing antitrust against the (now former?) search engine provider. 

Before getting to the monopoly-themed news of the week, I want to touch on a lurid story that’s been percolating for months in the antitrust world, but was given huge lift this weekend by the Wall Street Journal.

Over the past few days, the WSJ’s Brody Mullins has published three front page stories on a former Federal Trade Commission official and George Mason University professor named Josh Wright, who was fired last year after multiple women came forward publicly alleging Wright had used his various positions of power to induce sexual relations with them. According to the accusations, Wright was able to advance the careers of students at law firms and in government, and did so, based on whether they were sleeping with him.

It’s a bit weird to have so much Wall Street Journal ink dedicated to someone who seems a bit like a random guy, and over what appears at first like a tabloid-style sex scandal. But Mullins is a very sharp reporter. And the story is not what it at first seems. Because it turns out, if there is one person who carries forward the legacy of Robert Bork’s ideas, and helped structure recent legal thinking on the right around corporate concentration, it would be Josh Wright. And his downfall exposes the entire political machine of firms like Google, Amazon, and Walmart in Washington, D.C., in academia, and in the legal establishment.

I’ve been on the other side of this machine; in 2017, I was at a think tank called New America, and my team was let go because of a press release we sent praising a European enforcement action against Google. Then-CEO Eric Schmidt called the President of New America, and we were all fired. So while I generally prefer discussing ideas because I think ideas do actually drive policy, it’s important to note that the people who run the antitrust world are, generally speaking, bad human beings.

There are of course exceptions, many in fact. But from what I’ve seen, the white collar antitrust bar tended to tolerate criminality and evil and abuse, or even encourage it. And that’s why the story of Wright matters. It’s not that Wright did bad stuff, it’s that he was allowed to act with impunity for almost twenty years. He was benefitting monopolists, so he could do whatever he wanted. Big tech CEOs and Wright share the fundamental ideological notion that those with power can abuse it if they so choose, as long as it’s good for monopolists. And Wright was good for monopolists.

Seriously, this is precisely why so many people think that our system, however you define, "System," is ineluctably corrupt.

His behavior, much like the behavior of Weinstein, was well known, but was tolerated, because Google liked him, and donated a lot to George Mason University, and generated a lot of business for his law firm, so no one cared.

At least no one cared until the WSJ started looking into the story.


Post a Comment