Outgoing FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra has been advocating for Khan’s nomination.
Lina Khan, an antitrust knowledgeable, Columbia legislation professor and thorn within the aspect of Huge Tech, is gaining traction as a candidate to fill one of many commissioner roles on the Federal Commerce Fee beneath President Joe Biden, three sources conversant in the discussions instructed Recode this week.
Khan would doubtless fill the commissioner seat at present held by Rohit Chopra, a Democrat who Biden has tapped to run the Shopper Monetary Safety Bureau (CFPB). Chopra has been advocating for the nomination of Khan, the sources mentioned, with one particular person conversant in deliberations calling her a present “frontrunner.” Khan served as a authorized fellow on the FTC in Chopra’s workplace in 2018 and on the CFPB as a summer season affiliate whereas Chopra labored there.
Khan and Chopra didn’t reply to messages looking for remark. A White Home spokesperson declined to remark. The Capitol Discussion board first reported on Khan’s traction.
The FTC performs a key position in investigating corporations’ enterprise practices to protect competitors by implementing federal antitrust legal guidelines, and to stop client hurt. The company additionally opinions main firm acquisitions and mergers in an try and protect business competitors, and it might sue corporations and impose penalties for violating federal legal guidelines. For instance, the FTC within the final yr has individually sued the businesses that personal the Gillette and Schick razor manufacturers, respectively, to cease them from buying or merging with up-and-coming rivals.
The FTC is led by 5 commissioners, however Biden has two roles to fill with Chopra leaving and present Republican FTC chair Joe Simons just lately saying his resignation. When these two spots are crammed, Democrats can have a 3-2 majority on the high of the fee and can determine to file lawsuits or comply with settlements with corporations alleged to have violated antitrust legal guidelines.
If Khan is nominated after which confirmed by the Senate, it could mark a blow to the Huge 4 tech corporations — Amazon, Fb, Google, and Apple — which were attempting to keep away from having the federal government rein of their unmatched financial and societal energy. Khan performed an important position as authorized counsel for the Home antitrust subcommittee’s 16-month investigation into the Huge Tech giants, and in producing the 400-page Home Democrat report that alleged that all the tech giants interact in anti-competitive practices and should be reined in.
Khan burst onto the scene in antitrust circles in 2017 when she penned a authorized paper dubbed “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which unfold broadly amongst proponents and critics alike. It emphasised the necessity for enhanced antitrust enforcement and argued that present antitrust doctrine is ill-suited to rein in web giants like Amazon. Over the previous couple of many years, US antitrust enforcers have for essentially the most half favored enterprise practices that preserve client costs low; corporations like Amazon, with its low costs, or Google and Fb with their “free” providers, have till just lately averted a lot scrutiny.
Google is already dealing with three antitrust lawsuits filed late final yr by the Division of Justice and the attorneys basic of dozens of states. And the FTC and different state attorneys basic have filed antitrust fits towards Fb that decision for the corporate to unwind its Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions. Recode has beforehand reported that the Federal Commerce Fee additionally continues to probe varied Amazon enterprise practices to find out if Jeff Bezos’s company is violating antitrust legal guidelines.
Whereas one FTC commissioner’s worldview alone gained’t straight result in the fee taking motion towards the tech giants that it in any other case wouldn’t have, Khan’s appointment may sign that the Biden administration is able to take a more durable stance towards Huge Tech than the Obama administration was. Progressives in favor of elevated regulation of Huge Tech have been involved by reviews that Biden is contemplating two officers — who’ve beforehand suggested tech giants — for the highest antitrust position on the Division of Justice, which may additionally convey fits towards corporations for violating antitrust legal guidelines.
It stays to be seen whether or not Biden’s antitrust appointments on the DOJ and FTC will find yourself being a patchwork of officers with various views of how massive of a difficulty company consolidation is in tech and past, or whether or not they are going to be aligned in a perception that the ability and enterprise practices of those giants are additionally a menace to the economic system and customers. Both approach, it’s exhausting to consider an appointment that may fear the tech conglomerates greater than Khan’s would, each due to her experience in scrutinizing their practices and the large position her writings and counsel have already performed in influencing lawmakers’ view of the menace Huge Tech poses.