New Powers for Regulators

SOME OF AMERICA’S MOST AGGRESSIVE regulatory experts, now in key roles in the Biden Administration, are itching to take on big corporations. With antitrust reform legislation unlikely to survive a Republican filibuster in the Senate, the spotlight will shift to these regulators, who are about to push the limits on curbing business concentration.

THE FIRST SIGNAL OF A REGULATORY BRAWL comes this morning as the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other news outlets are reporting that Biden will attempt to crack down on companies via executive orders. This will begin a lengthy period of litigation and a souring of relations between Washington and big business.

THE THEME WILL BE GREATER COMPETITION, as all federal agencies are directed to crack down on concentration and predatory practices. Obviously, a major target will be the U.S. tech sector.

A HANDFUL OF NEW REGULATORS rejects traditional antitrust tactics like denying mergers or breaking up highly concentrated industries; the latter could take years to resolve in the courts. This thinking is led by new FTC Chair Lina Kahn and Tim Wu, a longtime advocate for tougher antitrust enforcement who is now an official at the White House National Economic Council; Wu is in charge of technology and competition.

THESE ACTIVISTS WANT TO ENACT regulations that would attack relationships within and among big industries their use their supply networks to crush competition and stifle innovation, these regulators believe.

WE EXPECT AN IMMEDIATE LEGAL PUSH-BACK from business groups. A sweeping Biden proposal in the next few weeks, giving regulators new powers, won’t have an immediate effect on corporate earnings — but the long-term impact will be headline risk at the least and at the most a lack of certainty for companies that may have to make long-range plans amid an adversarial relationship with Washington.

DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO: Reports of a massive voting screw-up in the June 22 New York City Democratic mayoral primary will give Donald Trump and his supporters a reason to gloat. They still argue, baselessly, that there were huge voting irregularities in the November election, and now they can point to New York, which faces a humiliating focus on its vote fiasco.

THE PUSH-BACK FROM THE LEFT will be that the solution is a new voting reform law, but that bill is hopelessly stalled in Congress. The right wing will continue to claim that elections are subject to manipulation — even in liberal locations like New York.

THIS IS IMPORTANT because over half of all Republicans in America believe Joe Biden did not win the presidency. That sentiment will be reinforced by what apparently happened in New York, which gives Trump fresh arguments in his bitter battle with Manhattan prosecutors. A healing process, and a return to a more traditional two-party arrangement, is not imminent; America’s fractured politics just got even more divisive.

Related: The Fed Grapples With a Game-Changer

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of AGF, its subsidiaries or any of its affiliated companies, funds or investment strategies.

The views expressed in this blog are provided as a general source of information based on information available as of the date of publication and should not be considered as personal investment advice or an offer or solicitation to buy and/or sell securities. Speculation or stated believes about future events, such as market or economic conditions, company or security performance, or other projections represent the beliefs of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of AGF, its subsidiaries or any of its affiliated companies, funds or investment strategies. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in these commentaries at the time of publication; however, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Market conditions may change and AGF accepts no responsibility for individual investment decisions arising from the use of or reliance on the information contained herein. Any financial projections are based on the opinions of the author and should not be considered as a forecast. The forward looking statements and opinions may be affected by changing economic circumstances and are subject to a number of uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those contemplated in the forward looking statements. The information contained in this commentary is designed to provide you with general information related to the political and economic environment in the United States. It is not intended to be comprehensive investment advice applicable to the circumstances of the individual.

AGF Investments is a group of wholly owned subsidiaries of AGF Management Limited, a Canadian reporting issuer. The subsidiaries included in AGF Investments are AGF Investments Inc. (AGFI), AGF Investments America Inc. (AGFA), AGF Investments LLC (AGFUS) and AGF International Advisors Company Limited (AGFIA). AGFA and AGFUS are registered advisors in the U.S. AGFI is a registered as a portfolio manager across Canadian securities commissions. AGFIA is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and registered with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission. The subsidiaries that form AGF Investments manage a variety of mandates comprised of equity, fixed income and balanced assets.