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The proposed $85bn merger between AT&T and Time Warner has drawn the two companies into potential conflict with the US Department of Justice, which fears the deal would create a new monopoly and be bad for cable TV customers.

The argument mounted by the two companies — that a merger is necessary in order to stave off competitive pressure from digital giants like Netflix, Amazon, Google and Facebook — falls foul of conventional antitrust policy, notes Rana Foroohar in her latest column. But in this instance, she argues, it may be the policy that’s the problem. For established notions of “consumer welfare” on which antitrust legislation is based don’t apply in a world in which data, and not dollars, are the currency.

It is time, therefore, to rethink antitrust policy and with it the very idea of economic welfare itself. Yes, the justice department should attack overweening corporate power. But in this instance, it is looking in the wrong place.

Trade wars:
Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel exports to the US have drawn attention to the vulnerability of the EU, and Germany in particular, to protectionist action. It is becoming clear, writes Wolfgang Münchau, that the eurozone’s anti-crisis strategy of relying on the rest of the world to absorb its surpluses has reached the end of the road. If the US goes one step further and slaps tariffs on cars, things could get really ugly.

Banking on blockchain:
The enduring popularity of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, argues Reza Moghadam, reflects public dissatisfaction with the current payment system based on physical cash and credit cards. One alternative being seriously considered by some central banks is a blockchain-based “central bank coin”. Concerns about the proposal are overblown, Reza suggests. And policymakers cannot afford to fall behind as the technology progresses.

Growing pains:
Rent-seeking, corruption and bad debt are among the biggest obstacles to India’s quest for economic dynamism, writes Gaurav Dalmia. New bankruptcy regulations introduced by the government of Narendra Modi are welcome, therefore. However, Gaurav argues, they are being implemented too rigidly and are having some unintended consequences. Transforming India’s economy will be the work of generations, not one electoral cycle.

Best of the rest

If Corbyn wants to be prime minister, he has to get real about Putin’s Russia — Matthew d’Ancona in The Guardian

Trump, flush with power — Maureen Dowd in The New York Times

On Russian TV screens, Europe is treated negatively — Oleksiy Makukhin in Le Monde (in French)

Populism’s challenge to democracy — William Galston in the Wall Street Journal

As Castro prepares to leave office, Trump’s Cuba policy is a road to nowhere — Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker

What you’ve been saying

Big Four ‘break in’ young auditors with long hours— letter from Audrey Donnithorne

Deficiencies in auditing are likely to occur when auditors are expected to work for 16 hours a day for weeks on end with scant breaks for weekends and holidays. This especially applies to young auditors, with the Big Four apparently considering this a tradition to break them in, as I have seen with a young friend of mine who had to work on a stressful audit from 9 am to 1 am for weeks. This makes it difficult to keep up the high standards of work that it is these companies’ duty to maintain.

Comment from francobollo on Unilever’s move is not all about Brexit, but . . . 

Unilever will always deny that its decision had anything to do with Brexit. After all, it wants to sell its soap powder to both Leavers and Remainers. The Leave Campaign made the most of that political quietism when they put Unilever's logo on their campaign material — without asking the company, and despite the fact that Unilever's management favoured UK remaining in the EU. 

Encourage whistleblowers to take the right steps — without financial rewards— letter from Peter Wright

There are times when the UK should take a hard look at the US justice system. Yet I question . . . the qui tam program, which allows US employees to blow the whistle for financial reward. In the UK, employees working in the financial services industry are obliged to report concerning matters as a result of the Financial Conduct Authority’s conduct rules (and the Senior Managers and Certification Regime in particular). Paying these individuals to blow the whistle when they have a regulatory obligation to do so undermines the regulator’s efforts to foster “good culture” in financial institutions . . . Whistleblowers need to know that issues will be investigated fairly and they will be protected from reprisals after acting in good faith. But we should be encouraging employees to take the right steps, regardless of economic motivations.

Today’s opinion

India’s anti-corruption battle will take decades to win
The unintended consequences of Narendra Modi’s bankruptcy rules are becoming clear

In a trade war Germany is the weakest link
Steel tariffs are a side show — extra duty on car exports could devastate the EU

Central banks are right to consider the merits of digital cash
The tenacity of bitcoin reflects dissatisfaction with current payment systems

Conservatives need to be as economically bold as Margaret Thatcher
The government must embrace structural reforms to make Brexit work

FT View

FT View: Rescuing Congo from another round of war
Joseph Kabila can be pushed towards the door by regional diplomacy

FT View: A call for caution on the end of eurozone stimulus
There is still a long way to go to repair the damage of the past decade

The Big Read

The Big Read: Carmakers take electric fight to the factory floor
With VW and GM pouring billions into production facilities for electric cars, Tesla’s supremacy is far from assured

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