Six months with Lina Khan’s FTC
Lina Khan’s first six months as head of the Federal Trade Commission showed that she either rocked a sleepy bureaucracy or pushed long-held standards too far, depending on who you ask.
Why is this important: At the end of Biden’s first year, many are watching Khan’s FTC to see if it can really fundamentally change the way the United States regulates big business and the way technology should treat consumers.
Enter the role, the 32-year-old, known for her scholarship in antitrust and competition policy, has targeted what she sees as monopolistic behavior in big tech and beyond. Under his leadership, the agency filed a new complaint accusing Facebook of buying competitors to maintain its dominance.
- He filed a lawsuit to block a $ 40 billion solid-state chip merger between Nvidia and Arm, arguing it would stifle competing next-gen technologies.
- It has launched a change in supply disruption investigative study, targeting retailers like Walmart and Amazon.
- He reached a settlement agreement with an advertising platform that allegedly violated children’s online privacy protection law.
The big picture: So far, Khan’s tenure has helped prepare more future actions than major high-profile antitrust cases.
- Those who want to see Big Tech taken to task are hoping to see Khan carry major deals that would lead to past acquisitions and block proposed mergers. And the clock is ticking.
- “We really feel a sense of urgency and hope [Khan] will do as much as possible as quickly as possible due to the potential threat of a hostile Republican Congress, ”Alex Harman, competition policy advocate at Public Citizen, told Axios.
A number of bureaucratic actions by Khan have elicited cheers or dismay from those watching the FTC.
- For the past 20 years, FTC meetings had not been open to the public. Now anyone can watch and the public can leave comments.
- Former FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra cast up to 20 votes on his last day at the agency, which can be used to sever ties to the House while Alvaro Bedoya awaits confirmation, according to Politico. Some argue that Chopra’s “zombie votes” are used to push through partisan agenda items they oppose.
- A vote on Oct. 29 changed a rule to require certain companies to get FTC approval for future mergers. Republican Commissioners Christine Wilson and Noah Phillips wrote that he is using “bureaucratic bureaucracy to add to all transactions … and to curb M&A activity in the United States.”
What they say : “She has acted incredibly quickly to shake things up and make changes at the agency,” Janis Kestenbaum, partner at law firm Perkins Coie and former FTC legal counsel, said at a recent online event. . “The degree and speed of change is more pronounced and dramatic than anything we have seen in the past decades.”
- “There is a radical change in the commission, before and after the appointment of President Khan,” John Davisson, senior lawyer at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Axios.
The other side: Some industry players and lawmakers, including a few who voted to confirm it, say Khan has already gone too far.
- “Congress is starting to see that she is pushing really hard and maybe she has played too much,” Geoffrey Manne, president of the International Center for Law & Economics, told Axios. “While she has a lot of support on both sides of Congress in a vendetta against technology, she may have misunderstood this as support for an aggressive, unattached agency.”
Go back: Khan was confirmed to the FTC with 21 Republican votes. But President Joe Biden did not announce she would chair the agency until after her confirmation.
- “Republicans who voted for it in the Senate, who thought it would be a free slap on Big Tech, have buyers’ remorse,” because of the FTC’s action on mergers and acquisitions, an Axios told Axios. technology industry advisor. “People are afraid of dying, even a relatively small or harmless transaction will be caught in a maze of approvals.”
And after: In a regulatory brief this month, the agency detailed its future plans which include reviewing the development of rules regarding penalties for companies that abuse user data, protecting users from commercial damages based on monitoring and ensuring that algorithmic decision-making is non-discriminatory.