Recently, the MSBA was honored to host Senator Amy Klobuchar at the Legal Summit as one of its keynote speakers. The one time 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and senior senator from Minnesota joined outgoing MSBA president Mark Scurti to talk about her career and her antitrust work, including her new book: Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age (Knopf, 2021). Senator Klobuchar is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. She practiced corporate law before being elected Hennepin County Attorney. Her husband, John Bessler, is a professor at the University of Baltimore Law School.
Senator Klobuchar remarked that she was impressed with the lineup of keynote speakers, which included two of her heroes, Dr. Madeleine Albright and NPR’s Nina Totenberg. She said both are also good friends and asked President Scurti to give her regards to them.
Senator Klobuchar then focused her remarks on her antitrust work. She said one of our jobs as lawyers is to make the growing problem of trusts more understandable. She said she will explain to people that the reason their drug prices are so high, or that we don’t have privacy in big tech is because of a lack of action in antitrust. The breakup of telecommunications giant AT&T in the ’80s led to competition and lower prices.
But today, Senator Klobuchar said, we see giants in many industries. From “cat food to caskets,” she said, industries are being dominated by giant corporations. She pointed to the travel industry as one of the biggest examples, where, she said, there are only two major players in control. Senator Klobuchar says Americans have an understanding that this sort of consolidation and control leads to a slump in startups as well as less innovation.
Senator Klobuchar said she believes strongly in capitalism. Her efforts are not about punishing success. It’s about making capitalism work and work better by allowing for competition in new markets, which will rejuvenate our capitalism.
Senator Klobuchar said she is working with Senator Chuck Grassley, among others, on bipartisan legislation. Their proposals would increase funding for the Justice Department’s antitrust division, which would strengthen the ability of the federal government to oversee mergers and better police the stifling of competition. She also wants to update the legal standards for mergers by placing the burden of proof on companies to show that there won’t be harm to competition. Senator Klobuchar said that if we don’t act now, Justice Brandeis’s warning about the “Curse of Bigness” will continue to threaten American innovation and our entrepreneurial spirit.
She closed with the words of her friend, the late Senator John McCain. When she visited him in his final days, he pointed to something he had previously written: “There is nothing more liberating in life than fighting for a cause larger than yourself.”