Column Thriving amidst the pervasive chaos of 2020, the world’s largest technology companies - the FAANGs*, as we’ve come to know them - have managed to grow larger, richer and more powerful.
That’s wonderful for shareholders, but quite a problem when it comes to the relations between these new superpowers and the nations they operate within.
Multinational entities always exploit their capacity to play nations off against one another in search of tax breaks or favourable regulatory environments. This zero-sum strategy means each FAANG win equals a loss for a national government - and governments tend to hold grudges. Tally up enough black marks, and even a trillion-dollar business might find itself in a fight for its life.
It certainly seems as though the knives are out for two of the FAANGs - Facebook and Google. In the US, the Department of Justice and several States Attorneys General will soon file an antitrust lawsuit; the EU wants to rein in the data gathering and coercive business practices of both; even plucky Australia has thrown its hat into the ring, empowering its competition regulator to claw back some of hundreds of billions of dollars a year in revenues hoovered by the pair. The FAANGs may be colossi, arrogantly striding the Earth, but the actions of scores of Lilliputian governments may yet bring Gulliver low.
But breaking up is hard to do. IBM and Microsoft surviv ..