Outgoing FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra advocated for Khan’s nomination.
Lina Khan, an antitrust skilled, Columbia regulation professor, and thorn within the aspect of Massive Tech, has been nominated to fill one of many commissioner roles on the Federal Commerce Fee below President Joe Biden, the White Home introduced on Monday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Khan will fill the commissioner seat at present held by Rohit Chopra, a Democrat who Biden has tapped to run the Client Monetary Safety Bureau (CFPB). Recode first reported in January that Chopra was advocating for the nomination of Khan, and that one particular person accustomed to deliberations thought-about her a “frontrunner” for the nomination. Khan served as a authorized fellow on the FTC in Chopra’s workplace in 2018 and on the CFPB as a summer time affiliate whereas Chopra labored there.
The Capitol Discussion board first reported on Khan’s traction.
The FTC performs a key position in investigating firms’ enterprise practices to protect competitors by implementing federal antitrust legal guidelines, and to forestall shopper hurt. The company additionally evaluations main firm acquisitions and mergers in an try and protect business competitors, and it will probably sue firms and impose penalties for violating federal legal guidelines. For instance, the FTC within the final 12 months 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 stuffed, Democrats can have a 3-2 majority on the prime of the fee and can resolve to file lawsuits or conform to settlements with firms alleged to have violated antitrust legal guidelines.
If Khan is confirmed by the Senate, it might mark a blow to the Massive 4 tech firms — 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 Massive Tech giants, and in producing the 400-page Home Democrat report that alleged that all the tech giants have interaction in anti-competitive practices and must 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 few many years, US antitrust enforcers have for essentially the most half favored enterprise practices that preserve shopper costs low; firms like Amazon, with its low costs, or Google and Fb with their “free” companies, have till just lately averted a lot scrutiny.
Google is already going through three antitrust lawsuits filed late final 12 months 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 in opposition to 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 received’t immediately result in the fee taking motion in opposition to the tech giants that it in any other case wouldn’t have, Khan’s appointment might sign that the Biden administration is able to take a tougher stance in opposition to Massive Tech than the Obama administration was. Biden just lately named one other critic of Massive Tech, Tim Wu, to the Nationwide Financial Council as a particular assistant to the president for know-how and competitors coverage. Progressives in favor of elevated regulation of Massive Tech had been involved by experiences 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 in opposition to firms 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 problem 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 financial system and shoppers. Both means, it’s onerous to consider an appointment that worries the tech conglomerates greater than Khan’s, each due to her experience in scrutinizing their practices and the massive position her writings and counsel have already performed in influencing lawmakers’ view of the menace Massive Tech poses.
Replace, March 22: This text was initially printed on January 22, 2021, when Recode reported that Khan was a frontrunner for the nomination.