The Eye of the Donkey: Will Democrats Target Big Business?

By: Zoe Deutsch

On January 20, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States of America. A Democratic Senate, House, and White House now means that Democrats have substantial government control.[1] Although Congress and the White House will undoubtably turn much of their focus to controlling and eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic[2], many speculate Democrats will also begin investigations on so-called “Big Business.”[3] As WilmerHale partner Alyssa DaHuna explained, “[w]e’re telling our private-sector clients to buckle up and get ready for a bumpy ride.”[4]

Since COVID-19, large corporations and businesses have come under increased scrutiny, especially concerning the March 2020 CARES Act (“the Act”).[5] The Act, while designed to offer financial support to those struggling during the pandemic, actually contained large tax breaks and benefits for larger businesses.[6] With President Biden’s new administration and Congress, Big Business should expect increased investigations and be prepared for numerous congressional hearings.[7] As they should.

Whether for better or worse, the United States runs on capitalism and primarily enjoys a laissez-faire regime. But should a line be drawn? And where? Indeed, this country’s largest companies employ millions of people and keep our economy running. But as we saw this past summer during the Congressional antitrust hearings – where companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Apple were scrutinized for practices that allegedly stifle competition and monopolize their respective markets – the American people will only allow Big Business to go so far.[8] As the pandemic looms, the White House and Congress should strive to ensure the average worker is not suffering while Big Business flourishes. The blue wave has arrived, and large corporations should beware that regulations for fairer business practices are on their way. 


[1] See Elaine Godfrey, This is the Future that Liberals Want, The Atlantic (Sept. 17, 2020), https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/democrats-win-senate-white-house/616370/ (explaining the potential consequences of an entirely Democratically controlled federal government – the first in eleven years).

[2] See Ayesha Rascoe, On Day 2, Biden Focuses on COVID-19 Strategy with 10 Executive Actions, NPR (Jan. 21, 2021, 5:00 AM), https://www.npr.org/sections/president-biden-takes-office/2021/01/21/959048903/on-day-2-biden-to-focus-on-covid-19-strategy-with-10-executive-actions; Ken Thomas, Biden’s First 10 Days to Focus on Covid-19, Economy, Environment and Racial Equality, Wall St. J. (Jan. 16, 2021, 6:02 PM), https://www.wsj.com/articles/bidens-first-10-days-to-focus-on-covid-19-economy-environment-and-racial-equity-11610838151

[3] See Big Business, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/big%20business (defining “big business” as “an economic group consisting of large profit-making corporations especially with regard to their influence on social or political policy”). See generally Andrew Kragie, After Trump, Dem Probes May Turn to Companies, Law360 (Jan. 25, 2021, 6:54 PM), https://www-law360-com.proxywcl.wrlc.org/articles/1328506/after-trump-dem-probes-may-turn-to-companies.

[4] Id.

[5] See Hayley Peterson, Ruth’s Chris is Returning $20 Million in Federal Loans After Facing a Backlash, Bus. Insider (Apr. 27, 2020, 4:54 PM), https://www.businessinsider.com/ruths-chris-to-return-federal-loan-after-backlash-2020-4 (explaining how national, luxury steakhouse Ruth’s Chris returned its $20 million stimulus check after facing extreme public backlash).

[6] See Kathryn Judge, The Design Flaw at the Heart of the CARES Act, Forbes (Apr. 20, 2020, 6:41 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathrynjudge/2020/04/20/the-design-flaw-at-the-heart-of-the-cares-act/?sh=43e735ef6bed (“Too much of the support is going to large companies when it should be going to the small ones. And far too many of the benefits are flowing to shareholders and creditors, rather than to the underlying enterprise and the people it employs”); Allan Sloan, The CARES Act Sent You a $1,200 Check but Gave Millionaires and Billionaires Far More, ProPublica (June 8, 2020, 5:00 AM), https://www.propublica.org/article/the-cares-act-sent-you-a-1-200-check-but-gave-millionaires-and-billionaires-far-more (explaining that the Act indeed helped people in need, but also helped large companies by offering tax breaks and refunds).

[7] See Rafi Prober and Karen Christian, Under Investigation: Who Will Fall in the New Congress’ Crosshairs?, Law.com (Nov. 17, 2020, 2:09 PM), https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2020/11/17/under-investigation-who-will-fall-in-the-new-congress-crosshairs/?slreturn=20210026104421 (describing that expected Democratic oversight measures will include “collecting documents and communications, receiving the testimony of CEOs and senior executives, including that of the leading Wall Street investment firms, and conducting interviews and depositions of company officials.”).

[8] See Roger McNamee, A Historic Antitrust Hearing in Congress Has Put Big Tech on Notice, The Guardian (July 31, 2020, 7:42 AM), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/31/big-tech-house-historic-antitrust-hearing-times-have-changed (“The overarching purpose of the hearings was to determine whether the companies had too much market power”).

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