FILE PHOTO: The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Illustration
December 11, 2020
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawsuits filed against Facebook Inc by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and nearly every U.S. state on Wednesday were assigned to two U.S. judges in Washington appointed by former President Barack Obama, federal court records released Friday show.
The antitrust complaint from 46 states, the District of Columbia and Guam was assigned to Judge James E. Boasberg who has been on the court since 2011, while the FTC complaint was assigned to Judge Christopher Cooper, who has been on the court since 2014.
The complaints accuse Facebook of using a “buy or bury” strategy to snap up rivals and keep smaller competitors at bay. They focus specifically on its acquisitions of photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp in 2014 and could force Facebook to divest the two former rivals.
Facebook called the lawsuits “revisionist history” and said antitrust laws do not exist to punish “successful companies.”
Lawyers for the states suing identified two related cases — one filed in January by some small tech companies and one last week filed by Facebook users. Both were filed in U.S. District Court in northern California.
The states and FTC said they were electronically serving Facebook with the suits, which requires the company to respond within 21 days.
Boasberg also serves as the presiding judge on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and was previously a District of Columbia Superior Court judge.
In 2017, Cooper was initially assigned the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit seeking to block AT&T Inc’s acquisition of Time Warner Inc but he stepped aside. AT&T ultimately prevailed in its effort.
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Philippa Fletcher)