• Tech and Trump: What the Next Four Years Might Bring
  • March 23, 2017 | Authors: Melinda R. Biancuzzo; Jonathan E. Meyer
  • Law Firm: Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP - Washington Office
  • A young man, his brother, and a few friends start a cutting-edge company in his home. Within a few years, the company grows exponentially and dominates the American economy. Within a few more years, the government takes notice and begins to regulate the company and to limit its power.

    No, we’re not talking about a 21st century technology company; we’re describing Standard Oil over 100 years ago.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. As yesterday’s tiny tech startups grow into today’s economic behemoths - Amazon, Google, Apple, and others - they are facing greater government scrutiny. Whether over encryption, access to users’ stored data, or notice to users of government data requests, the examples are multiplying daily, and in some sense, they echo the Standard Oils of the past.

    In addition to their skyrocketing growth, these companies have begun to expand into more conventional industries - Uber’s entry into the transportation industry and Airbnb’s into the hotel industry are but two examples. The public is welcoming this expansion. A recent poll showed that 1/3 of global banking and insurance customers would consider switching their accounts to Silicon Valley giants if they offered such services. As this “tech creep” accelerates, government’s interest is growing.

    Large tech companies have known this is coming for some time, and have prepared. Last year alone, tech firms spent close to $50 million on lobbyists. Generally a liberal industry, tech companies enjoyed an amicable relationship with the Obama Administration, but many are wondering what to expect now that the 45th President has taken office.

    “A Different Kind of Republican”

    On the campaign trail, President Trump became known as “a different kind of Republican,” staking out a more protectionist stand on trade, and a more interventionist stance on antitrust policy than the typical Republican candidate. At times, however, he articulated a more traditionally Republican, small government, laissez-faire approach to regulation, promising to “no longer regulate our companies and our jobs out of existence”