New FTC Majority Gives Lina Khan a Chance to Push an Aggressive Player

WASHINGTON — The approval of a third Democrat to the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday broke the partisan stalemate at the agency. good news for this lina hanhead of the agency and a Democrat.

It is also a test.

With the FTC’s new Democratic majority coming with the approval of Alvaro Bedoya, the fifth commissioner to a quota that has been vacant since October, Ms. Khan’s allies and critics are watching to see if Khan moves forward with his plans to address corporate issues. strength. This could include filing an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, setting up online privacy rules, and using underused agency powers to clip the wings of companies like Meta, Apple, and Google.

With Congress remaining in lockdown and the midterm elections approaching, institutions like the FTC and the Department of Justice are probably the best hope remaining for activists and policymakers who want the government to curb corporate power. President Biden, who promised collapse last year ordered the FTC and other federal agencies taking steps to limit concentration.

Under Ms Khan, 33, who became president in June, the FTC has already tried to disrupt the deals, threatening to contest the deals after closing them. The commission said he would to punish companies This makes it difficult for users to repair their products. And he settled a case With the company once known as Weight Watchers, through a diet app that collects data from young children.

But “And the clock is ticking,” said William E. Kovacic, former head of the FTC.

Ms. Khan said in a statement that she was “excited” to be working with Mr. Bedoya and other commissioners. He didn’t mention how the FTC’s new majority would affect their plans.

The FTC’s previous split between two Republicans and two Democrats has led to stalemates. commission in February failed to reach an agreement To proceed with a study of the practice of pharmacy benefit managers.

Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, a progressive group seeking more antitrust sanctions, described the two Republicans of the FTC, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson, as “liberalists” who “sort of put a brake” on Ms. . Khan’s ability to advance his agenda.

Mr. Phillips said in an email that the commission supports “a longstanding tradition of bipartisan work to advance the interests of American consumers.” But she said she wouldn’t support Ms. Khan’s agenda when it “exceeds our legal mandate”, raises prices for consumers, or harms innovation.

Ms. Wilson pointed to three speeches in the past year criticizing Ms. Khan’s philosophy. In a speech last month, Ms. Wilson said that Ms. Khan and her allies draw on the principles of Marxism.

Democratic majority leader New York Senator Chuck Schumer said Wednesday’s vote confirmed Mr.

Now Ms. Khan can gain the skills to file a legal case against Amazon. HE IS wrote a student law review article In 2017, he criticized the company’s dominance. The FTC began investigating the retail giant under the Trump administration; some state attorneys also conducted inquiry into the company.

Ms. Khan may file a lawsuit to object to Amazon’s recent acquisition of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio. When the $8.5 billion transaction closed in March, an FTC spokesperson stated that the agency “can appeal a settlement at any time if it determines it has violated the law.”

Mrs. Khan may mark other deals as well. Agency is reviewing Microsoft’s $70 billion acquisition of video game publisher Activision Blizzard and sent request companies this year for additional information.

An executive order from Mr. Biden last year promoting more aggressive antitrust policy It has forced the FTC and the Justice Department to update the guidelines they use to approve the deals, which could lead to tighter scrutiny. Ms Khan may need the support of the commission’s other two Democrats, Mr. Bedoya and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, to approve aggressive new guidelines or challenge major mergers.

Mrs. Khan also said He wants to increase the agency’s powers, taking into account the regulations that govern privacy and how algorithms decide. He said the FTC is not making enough use of its role as a rule-making body and that regulations will increase its mandate to protect consumers.

“Given that our economy will only continue to become more digitized, market-wide rules can help provide clear notification and make enforcement more effective and efficient,” he said at a privacy conference last month.

The FTC may also take action on requests from progressive activist groups who want the agency to ban data-driven advertising business models and non-compete agreements that prevent workers from getting a job with a competitor of their current employer.

But former FTC officials said Ms. Khan faced challenges, even with the Democratic majority. Daniel Kaufman, former vice president of the agency’s consumer protection bureau, said it could take years for privacy regulations to be established. Businesses are likely to challenge rules in court that don’t comply with the FTC’s mandate to protect consumers from deceptive and unfair practices.

“The FTC’s rule-making capabilities are not designed to handle behavioral advertising, so I tell my clients that the agency can kick things off with a lot of pressure, but it’s unclear where it’s going,” said Mr. Kaufman, one of the company’s partners. said law firm BakerHostitler.

Ms. Khan’s efforts will also continue to encounter opposition from Mr. Phillips and Ms. Wilson. Mr. Phillips said he had reservations about the agency becoming a stronger regulator. In January, said It should be Congress, not the FTC, making the new privacy rules.

Ms. Wilson recently posted screenshots of an internal survey that showed satisfaction among the FTC’s career staff has plummeted. “The new leadership marginalized and disrespected staff, causing a brain drain that would take a generation to fix,” she said.

To overcome their opposition, Mrs Khan will have to keep her majority intact. This gives an edge to Mr. Bedoya, a privacy expert focusing on the human rights dangers of new technologies, and to Ms. Slaughter, a former senior member of Senator Schumer’s staff.

Ms. Slaughter said in a statement that Mr. Bedoya’s privacy expertise would serve the FTC well. She didn’t comment on the agency’s Democratic majority.

Mr. Bedoya was tight-lipped about his own plans and said he was “excited” to be working with only his new FTC colleagues.

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