The Biden administration is developing an executive order directing agencies to strengthen oversight of industries that they perceive to be dominated by a small number of companies, a wide-ranging attempt to rein in big business power across the economy, according to people familiar with the plans.
The executive order, which President Biden could sign as soon as next week, would direct regulators of industries from airlines to agriculture to rethink their rule-making process to inject more competition and to give consumers, workers and suppliers more rights to challenge large producers.
The goal is to broaden the way policy makers approach business concentration in the U.S., going beyond conventional antitrust enforcement focused on blocking big mergers. For example, companies in industries controlled by a small number of big firms might face new rules for disclosing fees to consumers or for their relationships with suppliers, the people familiar with the effort said.
Big business groups and some Republicans will likely protest any new Biden measures. Businesses and conservative legal groups could challenge the rules in court, as they already have with administration moves to limit oil and gas drilling on federal lands and to extend a pandemic-related moratorium on evicting renters. Regulatory opponents are hopeful that conservative judges appointed by former President Donald Trump will make it easier to challenge Biden administration rules.
“I find the way this is being framed questionable,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist who worked in the George W. Bush administration and who has advised GOP lawmakers and candidates. “They’ve decided the economy isn’t competitive, but when you look closer at the data, you just don’t see a radical increase in concentration.”