‘It’s Ridiculous’: Underfunded U.S. Regulators Can’t Keep Fighting the Tech Giants Like This
U.S. regulators don’t have enough money to properly check the tech giants, according to firsthand accounts
As politicians, the press, and the public scrutinize the tech giants and grow wary of their power, the most important organizations tasked with restraining them — the U.S. regulatory agencies — aren’t getting enough funding to do the job.
“The agencies are severely resource-constrained,” Michael Kades, an-ex FTC trial lawyer who spent 11 years at the agency, told Big Technology.
The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice’s antitrust division have a combined annual budget below what Facebook makes in three days. The FTC runs on less than $350 million per year, the DOJ’s antitrust division on less than $200 million. Facebook made $18 billion last quarter alone.
The funding disparity between the tech giants and their regulators leads to an unbalanced fight, current and ex-staffers said: The agencies can’t investigate the tech giants to the extent they’d like. They might shy away from complex cases fearing a resource-draining battle. And when they investigate the tech giants, they often see former colleagues with intricate knowledge of their strategy and ability to act (or lack thereof) representing these companies. Without significant budget increases, the tech giants may well continue to act unrestrained with little fear of repercussions.
“DOJ is under-resourced, FTC it’s ridiculous,” one ex DOJ-staffer told Big Technology.
This doesn’t mean these agencies are entirely hamstrung; they can typically marshall the resources to bring a clear-cut case. “They want to win,” one ex-FTC official said. “If it’s really egregious, and they find that in discovery, the attorneys are going to put a case together and go after it.” But when you can only take up a limited number of cases due to resource constraints, things inevitably slip through.