President Biden’s big business crackdown could be bad news for Wall Street titans like Ken Griffin — assuming the controversial effort ever makes it off the ground.
On Tuesday, it was reported that President Biden is quietly working on an executive order intended to take on big business and create more competition.
The controversial order, which Biden could sign as soon as next week, would seek to bypass traditional antitrust enforcement actions by directing regulators to rethink their rules for how their respective industries, from airlines to internet providers, operate, according to the Wall Street Journal.
For the financial services industry, a person with knowledge of Biden’s agenda told The Post, this could mean additional scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Griffin’s Citadel Securities would likely be a target in the market-making space, while BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, Vanguard and State Street may get a hard look in the asset management space, this person added.
Citadel has already been under fire from SEC chair Gensler, who has been critical of its influence on $45 trillion US stock market. In May, Gensler told Congress that he had directed his staff to review whether new rules were needed to encourage competition among firms like Citadel, which act create liquidity for the market by acting as security wholesalers.
“One firm, Citadel Securities, has publicly stated that it executes about 47 per cent of all retail volume,” Gensler said at the time. “In January, two firms executed more volume than all but one exchange, Nasdaq.”
In the asset management space BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street control around $15 trillion, or roughly three-quarters the size of the US economy. The big three’s oligopoly could be another focus for the SEC, sources said.
Of course, efforts to crack down on Wall Street titans will be met with fierce opposition by free-market advocates and opponents of big government, including business groups and Republican lawmakers.
And some critics are already predicting the effort will be knocked down by the courts.
“It will generally be struck down by the court system,” said an antitrust lawyer who worked at the Federal Trade Commission.
“It’s a very bad idea,” this person added. “Antitrust is being used by ideologues as the cure-all for everything wrong in society and it doesn’t work that way. Some companies are screwing people but you need to correct this on a case by case basis.”
“We have in place laws and antitrust agencies” directed at protecting customers,” agreed Mark Jamison, a visiting scholar and economist at The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “Under the new law, everybody becomes an antitrust enforcer.”
Of course, its not just Wall Street that will be affected, and the move to crack down on big business comes as tech giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon have been in the crosshairs of regulators on both sides of the aisle.
“There wouldn’t be a single part of the economy this wouldn’t reach,” Dan Caprio, Co-Founder and Chairman of the strategic risk firm Providence Group tells The Post. “I think right now people’s heads are spinning… this is uncharted territory to have this level of upheaval.”
“This is a tectonic shift with the potential for a lot of litigation,” Caprio added.
While details of the planned proposal are still vague, sources say the goal is to create rules akin to those that resulted from a similar executive order issued by President Barack Obama in April 2016, which resulted in the Transportation Department requiring airlines to more clearly disclose baggage fees, among other changes.
In a statement to The Post, Emilie Simons a spokeswoman for the White House said: “The President made clear during his campaign that he is committed to increasing competition in the American economy, including by banning noncompete agreements for workers and protecting farmers from abusive practices, but there is no final decision on any actions at this time.”