Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roger Alford on Antitrust Regulation and Enforcement

Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International Affairs Roger Alford delivered the keynote address in March at the Pepperdine Law Review‘s Symposium, speaking on contemporary developments in antitrust regulation and enforcement. The event was sponsored by the Regulatory Transparency Project, and they have adapted the remarks into an excellent podcast. Please enjoy a brief excerpt from the recording, and consider listening to it yourself at the link below.

Alford: (Antitrust) is a very, very hot topic of discussion and debate right now within the United States. There is a sort of mainstream traditional view that is espoused by Democrats and Republican administrations over the past 30 or 40 years, but since I started at the Department of Justice there has been a robust discussion about whether or not we should be rethinking antitrust enforcement, particularly in the context of digital markets. That discussion is only a small fraction of the larger debate about how to do antitrust enforcement globally. There are lots of events that I attend around the world in Europe and in Asia where there’s incredibly robust discussion about how we should deal with digital markets and enforcement, and a lot of the framing of the discussions that were presented here are similar. The question is are the antitrust rules adequate to deal with the sort of emerging issues that arise in the context of digital markets and the power of platforms?

One way to frame the discussion is to think about the issue from the perspective of what is the particular problem that you’re trying to deal with, and whether or not that problem should be dealt with through a regulatory approach or an antitrust enforcement approach. Obviously, it’s clear that some issues should not be addressed by the antitrust framework. There’s many issues that no one would suggest should be dealt with by the antitrust framework, but more topics are being debated now than have traditionally been understood to be the kinds of things that should be dealt with within antitrust, versus other regulatory frameworks. That’s the sort of broad perspective to think about, it’s ex-ante anticipation of a problem through regulation or ex-post resolution after the problem is arisen through antitrust enforcement.

I am very loath to read my comments. I never teach that way and I never speak that way under normal circumstances, but one of the many new things about my current job is that every time I speak officially for the US Government, I have to be vetted and my speech and my comments have to be approved by multiple levels of people above me that know more than I do about these issues. So the good thing about my speech is it is official. The bad thing about my speech is I’m gonna be reading it.

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