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Facebook, Alphabet are the most likely tech giants to face antitrust action next year, Cowen says

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Key Points
  • While Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google face significant antitrust risk before and after the 2020 election, the latter two are the most exposed, Cowen writes.
  • "We believe state AGs are now willing to take antitrust enforcement actions independent of DOJ and the FTC," they added.
  • Before the 2020 election, Cowen sees a 75% chance Google will face antitrust action by either the federal government or states and a 60% chance Facebook does.
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies during a US House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 11, 2018.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

While Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google-parent Alphabet face significant antitrust risk before and after the 2020 election, the latter two are the most exposed to accusations of innovation-stifling and anti-competitive practices, according to Cowen.

The alliance of nearly all state attorneys general to investigate both Google and Facebook — on top of Federal Trade Commission or Department of Justice action — is perhaps the most underappreciated threat, stated the note.

"Given the states' historical lack of antitrust action, their Google and Facebook investigations could be viewed as political grandstanding. We think that would be a mistake," the team wrote in a note to clients published Friday.

"Based on meetings we've held – plus the unprecedented state-only lawsuit against T-Mobile/Sprint (which no one, including us, saw coming) – we believe state AGs are now willing to take antitrust enforcement actions independent of DOJ and the FTC," they added.

Before the 2020 election, Cowen thinks there is a 75% chance Google will face antitrust action by either the DOJ or the state attorneys general and a 60% chance Facebook does.

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