Technology

FTC chair says agency won’t back down because Big Tech is ‘flexing some muscle’

FTC Commissioner nominee Lina Khan seen at her nomination hearing on April 21
Washington Examiner/Pool

Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan promised her agency won’t back down from investigations into Big Tech companies during her first TV interview in the role.

“These are enormously well-resourced companies, they are not shy about deploying those resources,” she said in an appearance on CNBC Wednesday.

“I think in these moments, it’s important to kind of ensure we’re really showing these companies but also showing the country that enforcers are not going to back down because of these companies flexing some muscle or kind of trying to intimidate us,” Khan added.

The agency chief touched on several parts of her antitrust agenda over the course of the hourlong interview with CNBC anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin and New York Times podcast host Kara Swisher.

Khan discussed Tuesday’s announcement that the FTC and the Justice Department’s antitrust division are reviewing guidelines for mergers in an attempt to block more deals that could harm competition.

Existing frameworks for evaluating both horizontal and vertical mergers do not account for changes to the economy largely driven by new technologies, she argued.

“And as we’ve seen the growth of new technologies, the market dynamics have changed,” Khan explained. “And so we need to make sure that the tools we’re using, the frameworks we’re using, the questions that we’re asking, are actually still mapping on to the reality that we’re seeing in these markets.”

The chair added that the focus on end prices as the metric for harm to consumers is no longer adequate because many digital companies offer their services for free. Moving forward, changes to merger guidelines could include things like labor harms or quality of service.

Khan stressed during Wednesday’s appearance that while the agency is chugging away at these changes, it remains ill-equipped to tackle all the issue before it, especially amid a surge in merger applications.

“We are severely under resourced,” she said. “We have the same number of people responsible for investigating these transactions, the number of transactions has dramatically increased, that creates significant strain.”

That lack of resources has led the agency to prioritize action that could act as a deterrent to other potentially anti-competitive deals, Khan said, like in the case of the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.

Tags Andrew Ross Sorkin antitrust Big tech Federal Trade Commission Federal Trade Commission Lina Khan Lina Khan

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