AAMER MADHANI, Associated Press
President Joe Biden is set to sign on Friday an executive order that the White House bills as an effort to target anti-competitive practices in tech, health care, and other parts of the economy while boosting workers’ wages and consumer protections.
The sweeping order includes 72 actions and regulatory recommendations involving a dozen federal agencies that the White House says “will lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, and promote innovation and even faster economic growth.”
The order seeks to address noncompete clauses – an issue affecting some 36 million to 60 million Americans, according to the White House – by encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to ban or limit such agreements, ban unnecessary occupational licensing restrictions and strengthen antitrust guidance to prevent employers from collaborating to suppress wages or reduce benefits by sharing wage and benefit information with one another.
The order also seeks to take aim at tech giants Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon by calling for greater scrutiny of mergers, “especially by dominant internet platforms, with particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by ‘free’ products, and the effect on user privacy.”
It notes that over the past two decades the U.S. has lost 70% of the banks it once had, with around 10,000 bank closures. Communities of color and rural areas have been disproportionately affected.
To begin addressing the trend, the order encourages the Justice Department as well as the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to update guidelines to provide greater scrutiny of mergers. It also encourages the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to issue rules allowing customers to download their banking data and take it with them.
The order includes several provisions that could affect the agricultural industry. It calls on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider issuing new rules defining when meat can use “Product of USA” labels. It also encourages the FTC to limit farm equipment manufacturers’ ability to restrict the use of independent repair shops or DIY repairs – such as when tractor companies block farmers from repairing their own tractors.
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