When encountering a reference to the “Big Four” one used undeniably to think of the biggest four accounting firms in the world.
Recently, though, it might be necessary to check the context, as the reference could perfectly be made to the 4 largest “tech” companies in the world (Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon).
However, are these latest “Big Four” only “tech” companies? Bankers and car-makers may not agree. Facebook is entitling users to make payments through its Messenger service, Apple introduced Apple Pay, Google invested in sector-disruptive Uber and - like Apple - is investing heavily in self-driving cars. This, though,eems to be only the tip of the iceberg.
Indeed, as venture capitalist Marc Andreessen already forecasted in 2011, “software is eating the world” or, at least, that seems to be what investors think: in July 2016, for the very first time in history, the 5 largest world companies by market capitalization were all "tech" companies: the “Big-Big Four”+
Moreover, the industry seems to be looking at
as the future for development and growth of their business. And again, not only do the "Big-Big Four" have the muscle, knowledge, familiarity and boldness that gives them an undeniable edge but they also control the food that shall feed the
artificial decision making machinery: yes, we are talking about
. With millions of users around the world, the “Big-Big Four” hold (some will argue they own) plenty of information about the tastes,
whereabouts, tendencies, strengths, flops and rest of characteristics of practically all of us.
Who would like to, or could possibly stop this already often labelled as “neo-feudalism” system? A lawyer would tell you to look at the antitrust and/or data protection authorities. The task they have in front, though, seems titanic.
In the meantime, lawyers everywhere: the next time you are drafting, for instance, a Shareholder Agreement, make sure you make it clear that you are referring to the “Big Four” accounting firms and not to the “Big-Big Four”, otherwise you could end up with Apple or Google having to evaluate the value of your client’s company or, wait a minute, will they also offer this service any time soon?