Lina Khan, an antitrust expert, Columbia law professor and thorny candidate on Big Tech’s side, is playing an increasing role in one of the federal commerce commissioner’s duties under President Joe Biden, three sources familiar with the discussions told Recode. this week.
Khan is likely to take over as Commissioner, represented by Rohit Chopra, a Democrat Democrat who led Biden’s Office of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB). Chopra called for the appointment of a khan, sources said, and one person familiar with the deliberations called him the current “frontrunner”. Khan worked as a legal associate at the FTC in Chopra’s office in 2018 and at the CFPB as a summer associate while Chopra worked there.
Khan and Chopra did not respond to messages requesting comments. A White House spokesman declined to comment. The Capitol Forum first reported on Khan’s adhesion.
The FTC plays a key role in investigating companies ’business practices in order to preserve competition while enforcing federal antitrust laws and to prevent consumer harm. The agency also reviews acquisitions and mergers of large corporations in an attempt to preserve industrial competition, sue corporations, and impose penalties for violating federal laws. For example, the FTC last year specifically sued companies that own the Gillette and Schick razor brands to prevent them from acquiring or merging emerging rivals.
The FTC is led by five commissioners, but Biden has two roles with Chopra’s departure, and FTC’s current Republican president, Joe Simons, recently announced his resignation. When these two seats are filled, the Democrats will have a 3-2 majority at the head of the committee and it may decide to sue or settle with companies that have allegedly violated antitrust laws.
If Khan is appointed and then confirmed by the Senate, it would be a blow to the Big Four technology companies – Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple – which have tried to avoid the government squeezing out their unparalleled economic and social power. Khan was instrumental in advising the House’s antitrust subcommittee on a 16-month investigation into the Big Tech giants, as well as drafting a 400-page Democratic House report that claimed all technology giants were engaging in anti-competitive practices and being restrained.
Khan exploded into the scene in antitrust circles in 2017 when he wrote a legal paper called “Amazon’s antitrust paradox,” which was widespread among supporters and critics alike. He stressed the need for increased antitrust enforcement, arguing that the current antitrust doctrine is not suited to repress internet giants like Amazon. In recent decades, U.S. antitrust executives have mostly favored business practices that keep consumer prices low; companies like Amazon with their low prices or Google and Facebook with their “free” services have until recently avoided a lot of research.
Google is already facing three antitrust lawsuits launched at the end of last year by attorneys at the Department of Justice and dozens of states. And the FTC and other state prosecutors have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook calling on the company to liquidate its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. Recode previously reported that the Federal Trade Commission continues to investigate Amazon’s various business practices to determine whether Jeff Bezos’s company is violating antitrust laws.
While the worldview of one of the FTC commissioners alone does not directly lead the committee to take action against the technology giants, which it would not otherwise have been able to do, the appointment of Khan may indicate that the Biden administration is ready to take a tougher stance against Big Tech than Obama. was an administration. Those advocating greater regulation of Big Tech are concerned about reports that Biden is considering two officials, who previously consulted technology giants, to play the top antitrust role in the Department of Justice, which could also sue companies for violating antitrust laws. .
It remains to be seen whether Biden’s antitrust appointments in the DOJ and FTC will ultimately be the pimples of officials who have differing views on the extent of corporate consolidation in technology and beyond, or align with it. believing that the power and business practices of these giants also pose a threat to the economy and consumers. Either way, it’s hard to imagine a meeting that would worry technology conglomerates more than Khan, both because of its expertise in examining their practices and the huge role it already plays in its writings and advice to influence lawmakers ’views on the Big Threat Tech poses.