Speaking at an event hosted by The Economic Club of New York, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan she addressed the agency’s recent setbacks in court and suggested that its crackdown on big tech could continue.

Key things

  • Speaking at an event in New York, FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan addressed the agency’s recent setbacks in court and suggested that its crackdown on big tech could continue.
  • While the FTC has filed more cases under Khan than its predecessors, it’s only a small fraction of the thousands of filings the agency receives each year.
  • Lina Khan was appointed Chair of the FTC in June 2021 and has been characterized by a strong stance against monopolies and a tough approach to Big Tech.

In a Q&A session, Khan addressed questions regarding the agency’s failures in court, including its failed attempt to block Meta Platforms (META) acquisition of virtual reality headset maker Within. Asked if the agency would change its approach after recent court losses, Khan clarified that the agency has lost only two cases in federal court, out of “anywhere between 13 and 20, depending on how you count.”

“Within our merger enforcement program, losing two is fine,” Khan said. “We only bring cases that we should win, and we know we can win.”

Despite the agency’s stricter approach to anti-monopoly policy under Khan, only a small fraction of the companies that register are still chasing. “In any given year, antitrust agencies receive between 1,500 and 3,000 merger applications,” Khan said. “Of that number, 98% pass with no further questions from the agencies.”

Khan pointed out that “even in the cases where we didn’t win the preliminary injunction, we got clarification from the case law,” specifically referring to the agency’s lawsuit against Meta Platforms. This case referred to a legal doctrine that had not been applied for decades in the midst of an ever-evolving technology market.

Asked whether the FTC has an implicit aversion to big business, Khan clarified that the agency’s mission is governed by statute as defined by federal law — not philosophy, and that the nature of existing antitrust law favors competition over monopolies.

“The statutes don’t necessarily prohibit being a monopoly — they just prohibit becoming a monopoly through illegal tactics,” Khan said. “If we see concentration [within an industry]to what extent is this a product of firms being ‘better’ at business versus engaging in anti-competitive tactics – which I think is a really important question.”

Khan was appointed chairman of the FTC in June 2021, making him one of the agency’s youngest chairs at age 32. Khan rose to fame four years earlier while still a student at Yale Law School, where she published an article titled The Amazon Antitrust Paradoxin which she argued that the current anti-corrosion framework in the US does not adequately explain the increase eshop and platform-based business models such as Amazon (AMZN), which have gained a huge market share in recent years.

As chair of the FTC, Khan was noted for her strong stance against monopolies, criticizing her predecessors for what she saw as an overly lenient and lax approach to antitrust. During her tenure, she aggressively went after major tech companies such as Apple (AAPL), Amazon, Microsoft (MSFT), Platform Meta and Google’s Parent Alphabet (GOOGLE) in an effort to protect consumers and prevent further industry consolidation.

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