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High noon for big tech in Washington? | Ticker VIEWS

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While everyone was focusing on the bipartisan deal between President Biden and a group of moderate senators last week, another drama was unfolding on Capitol Hill

Officials in the House Judiciary Committee were working on the most significant move to bring antitrust laws to bear on the most powerful companies in America (and the world) since Microsoft was the target of a move to break its business model 23 years ago.

As the Big Tech companies continue to grow, they face increasing scrutiny over how they operate and whether competition is limited as a result.

Facebook, Google and Amazon in particular have been growing and extending their power and scale. This has lead to questions as to whether these companies are abusing consumers’ rights.

This is one issue that has strong bipartisan support

It has support from Republicans, because Big Tech is seen as pro-left; cancelling out the voices of President Trump and other conservatives. And from Democrats, who fear Big Tech’s rampant concentration of power.

Since President Teddy Roosevelt’s extraordinarily successful crusades a century ago, a fundamental tenet of governance in a democracy is that no company or business interest is more powerful than the rule of law. That authorities can regulate corporate power to serve the public interest.

In US telecoms and tech, AT&T and Microsoft succumbed to this imperative of how capitalism must operate.

The US House Judiciary Committee.

It is this bipartisan cooperation that opened the door to aggressive enforcement activity in Washington

Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission filed landmark antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook.

40 US states have filed similar litigation.  The intent is consistent: break up their business models, introduce more competition, and establish rules to protect consumers.

The House Judiciary Committee last week approved five bills that would prevent Big tech mergers that could eliminate competitors. The Committee passed these bills with bipartisan support.

These bills will be difficult to enact into law, and Republicans in Congress remain divided

Trump supporters do not believe they do anything to stop Big Tech from closing down conservative media platforms. The concern comes after Twitter and Facebook both recently decided to turn off Trump. 

And if these bills do pass the House, successful Senate legislation requires a supermajority (60 votes out of 100 Senators) to pass.

What is most significant, however, is that the action sends a powerful signal that these issues are absolutely legitimate

This will strengthen the hand of both the Federal Commission, now under the new leadership of Lina Khan. It will also allow the Justice Department to litigate antitrust actions, bringing competition and consumer laws to these powerful commercial entities.  

Th Big Tech lobbyists can slow down how far Congress will go.  But not the landmark lawsuits managed by President Biden’s Executive Branch.

Read more by Bruce Wolpe here

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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How will Disney’s AI strategy boost shares?

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Activist investor Blackwells has called upon Disney to implement a robust artificial intelligence strategy aimed at bolstering the company’s shares.

“Disney must produce an artificial intelligence strategy, and share elements of that strategy with its shareholders.”, said Blackwells in a recent presentation.

New groove

Blackwells, known for pushing corporations to adopt innovative approaches, contends that a well-crafted AI strategy could drive shareholder value and position Disney for sustained success in the entertainment landscape.

The activist investor emphasises that harnessing the power of AI could optimise content creation, enhance customer experiences, and streamline operational efficiency within Disney.

Disney’s response

The company opposed the suggestion to replace board members with activists’ nominees, emphasising the potential disruption to ongoing progress.

Additionally, Disney disagreed with Blackwells’ proposal to spin off land and hotels into a real estate investment trust, arguing it reflected a misunderstanding of the synergies within its businesses.

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Boeing woes will lead to higher airfares: Ryanair

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Ryanair, one of Europe’s leading low-cost airlines, is grappling with the possibility of scaling back its summer flight schedule due to ongoing delays in the delivery of Boeing aircraft.

The airline had initially anticipated a boost in its fleet with the arrival of new Boeing planes, enabling an expansion of routes and increased passenger capacity.

However, prolonged delays in the manufacturing and delivery process have cast a shadow over these plans.

Growing pains

The airline industry, already navigating challenges posed by the global pandemic, now confronts the additional hurdle of supply chain disruptions impacting major aircraft manufacturers.

Ryanair’s dependence on Boeing for its fleet expansion has made it particularly vulnerable to these delays.

As the summer travel season approaches, the airline faces the tough decision of either operating with a reduced fleet or adjusting its schedule, potentially impacting travel plans for passengers.

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Gender pay gap – Calls grow for accountability

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The unveiling of gender pay gaps within large Australian organisations marks a significant milestone for gender equality, but experts emphasise the urgent need for greater accountability and action from employers, asserts a University of South Australia researcher.

Professor Carol Kulik, an authority in workplace diversity, underscores the importance of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s release of gender pay gap data for large Australian employers as a pivotal step forward.

However, she stresses that the true impact of this revelation will hinge on the proactive measures taken by organizations to address and narrow the existing disparity.

The WGEA’s disclosure will shed light on gender pay gaps among private sector employers with 100 or more employees for the first time.

This move comes amid ongoing efforts to promote and enhance workplace gender equality.

Pay gap

According to the WGEA’s 2023 report, the average gender pay gap in Australia stands at 21.7%, translating to women earning an average of $26,393 less per year than their male counterparts.

Professor Kulik, a member of the SA Gender Pay Gap Taskforce, underscores the importance of further actions to ensure that organizations are held accountable for addressing pay gaps.

“We now must be asking employers important questions,” Professor Kulik asserts.

“In what roles and levels of employment are pay gaps most prevalent? How are employers supporting employees’ caring responsibilities? What measures are being implemented to facilitate women’s advancement into higher-paying roles? How soon can employers commit to closing their pay gaps?”

Tend to escalate

Highlighting the trajectory of pay gaps over time, Professor Kulik notes that initial disparities between men and women at the outset of their careers tend to escalate as pay rises are often calculated as a percentage of an employee’s current salary.

Career breaks and caregiving responsibilities further exacerbate these discrepancies, resulting in women retiring with significantly lower superannuation than men.

Drawing parallels from regulatory interventions in other countries, Professor Kulik underscores the unintended consequences that may arise.

For instance, while legislative mandates in Denmark narrowed the gender pay gap, they also prompted employers to compress salary distributions, impacting both male and female employees.

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