How Big Tech Came to Dominate

Matt Stoller describes how Microsoft avoided the fate of IBM, which was constantly under threat by antitrust authorities

Like the rest of the Clinton administration, the DOJ Antitrust Division in the 1990s talked populist, but governed with a deference to monopoly. Clinton’s first appointment to run the division was a Washington lawyer named Anne Bingaman. Antitrust was not particularly important to the administration, and it seemed to some that Bingaman got the job as a political favor to her husband, New Mexico senator Jeff Bingaman. “Hmph,” Attorney General Janet Reno said to The Wall Street Journal, “there’s the White House trying to push a Senator’s wife on me.”

Nevertheless, when she took office, Bingaman was ready to entirely remake the dormant division. She “fired up” the staff, and opened up new investigations. “Anne Bingaman has a blunt message for corporate America: The antitrust cops are back on the beat,” said the Journal. One of Bingaman’s first goals was to open up the most important new area of the economy, the one where Reagan had allowed nascent robber barons to not only seize power over industry but over the future of technology. She would take on the big bad monopolist of the computer industry, Microsoft, which was frightening Silicon Valley, and increasingly, much of corporate America.

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