WASHINGTON – A third Democrat’s confirmation to the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday broke the stalemate in the agency. This is good news for the head of the agency and Democrat, Lena Khan.
This is also a test.
With the FTC’s new Democratic majority – backed by Alvaro Bedouya – becoming the fifth commissioner, in a slot that has been vacant since October – Ms. Khan’s allies and critics are watching to see if she Whether or not to pursue corporate settlement plans. The power includes filing a no-confidence motion against Amazon, setting online privacy laws and using the agency’s little-used agency powers to clip the wings of companies like Meta, Apple and Google.
With Congress still closed and midterm elections looming, agencies such as the FTC and the Department of Justice are probably the best hope for activists and policymakers seeking to curb corporate power from the government. President Biden, who has promised crackdowns, last year ordered the FTC and other federal agencies to take steps to limit concentration.
Under Ms. Khan, 33, who became chair in June, the FTC has already sought to end the merger and threatened to challenge the agreement once it closes. The commission said it would punish companies that make it difficult for consumers to repair their products. And he struck a deal with a company once known as Weight Watchers on a diet app that collected data from young children.
But Ms. Khan’s new Democratic majority is necessary for a broader “realization of her vision,” said former FTC chief William E. Kovacic, “and tick the clock.”
In a statement, Ms Khan said she was “excited” to work with Mr Bedoya and other commissioners. It did not say how the new FTC majority would affect its plans.
The previous split in the FTC between two Republicans and two Democrats caused a rift. In February, the commission failed to reach an agreement on how to proceed with the study of pharmacy benefit managers’ practices.
Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, a progressive group that seeks to impose a no-confidence motion, described the two FTC Republicans, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson, as “liberal holdouts.” Khan’s ability to advance his own agenda.
Mr Phillips said in an email that he supported the commission’s “long tradition of working bilaterally to advance the interests of American consumers.” But they will not support Ms. Khan’s agenda when it “exceeds our legal authority”, raises prices for consumers or harms innovation.
Ms. Wilson pointed to three speeches she made last year criticizing Ms. Khan’s philosophy. In a speech last month, Ms. Wilson said Ms. Khan and her allies adhere to the principles of Marxism.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democratic majority leader, said Wednesday’s vote confirms that Mr. Bedouin was “critical to opening up the FTC.”
Ms. Khan may now be able to sue Amazon. He wrote an article reviewing student law in 2017, criticizing the company’s dominance. The FTC has launched an investigation into the retail giant under the Trump administration. Some state attorney generals have also questioned the company.
Ms. Khan may file a lawsuit against Amazon for challenging the recent purchase of the film studio Metro Gold Wine Mayer. When the 8.5 billion transaction closed in March, a FTC spokesman noted that the agency could “challenge an agreement at any time if it determines that it violates the law.” “
Ms. Khan can put her stamp on other deals. The agency is reviewing a 70 70 billion acquisition of Microsoft video game publisher Activision Blizzard and has sent companies a request for additional information this year.
An executive order from Mr. Biden last year encouraged a more aggressive no-confidence policy, forcing the FTC and the Department of Justice to update the guidelines they use to approve deals, which Strict scrutiny may be required. Ms. Khan may need the support of two other Democrats on the commission, Mr. Bedouin and Rebecca Kelly Slater, to aggressively approve new directives or challenge major mergers.
Ms Khan also said she wanted to increase the agency’s powers by considering the rules governing confidentiality and the way algorithms make decisions. It said the FTC had underestimated its role as a rules-making body and that the regulations would increase its mandate to protect consumers.
“Given that our economy will only continue to digitize, market-oriented laws can help provide clear notice and make enforcement more efficient and effective,” he said at a privacy conference last month.
The FTC may also respond to requests from progressive worker groups seeking agency bans data-driven advertising business models and prohibits non-competitive agreements that allow workers to hire a competitor with their current employer. Prevent
But former FTC officials said Ms Khan faced challenges, even with a democratic majority. Daniel Kaufman, the agency’s former deputy head of the Consumer Protection Bureau, said it could take years to develop privacy regulations. Businesses are likely to challenge lawsuits that do not fit the FTC’s mandate to protect consumers in deceptive and unfair ways.
“The FTC’s policy-making capabilities are not designed to deal with behavioral advertising, so I’ve been telling my clients that the agency could start something with a lot of press, but it’s not clear where. Will go, “said Mr. Kaufman, a partner. Law firm BakerHostetler said.
Ms. Khan’s efforts are sure to face opposition from Mr. Phillips and Ms. Wilson. Mr Phillips said he had concerns about the agency becoming more of a muscle regulator. In January, he said Congress, not the FTC, should be there to make new privacy laws.
Ms. Wilson recently published screenshots of an internal survey showing that the FTC’s career staff has become less satisfied. “The new leadership has made the staff backward and disrespectful, resulting in a brain damage that will take a generation to heal,” he said.
Mohtarma Khan will have to retain her majority to overcome their opposition. This benefits privacy expert Mr. Bedouin, who has focused on the civil rights risks of new technologies, and Ms. Slater, a former senior member of Senator Schumer’s staff.
Ms Slater said in a statement that Mr Bedouin’s confidentiality skills would work well with the FTC. He did not comment on the agency’s Democratic majority.
Mr Bedouin was silent on his plans, saying only that he was “excited” to work with his new FTC colleagues.