CNBC: Biden nominates tech critic Lina Khan to the FTC

March 22, 2021 Media

Lina Khan, the noted tech critic whose examination of the antitrust case against Amazon sparked a reckoning among enforcers, is President Joe Biden’s pick to become a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, the White House announced Monday.

If confirmed, Khan would get to vote on important cases involving antitrust and consumer protection at the FTC. That could include a decision on whether to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, which it has reportedly been investigating, as well as whether to block acquisitions by large companies.

Khan is widely praised in progressive circles for her scholarship on antitrust, which has focused on tech companies in particular. As a law student at Yale University in 2017, she wrote a note entitled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” that went viral, which challenged the consumer welfare-focused approach that for years had dominated antitrust enforcement. Most recently, she’s taught antitrust law at Columbia University.

In her 2017 note, Khan argued that a more expansive interpretation of the antitrust laws must be used to appropriately evaluate a digital platform like Amazon, which can act like a gatekeeper of a market. She wrote that platforms could engage in a practice of predatory pricing, for example, which would seem to benefit consumers by lowering prices, but in fact cut out legitimate competitors who could further innovate.

She also played a key role in crafting the hefty report detailing the alleged anti-competitive behaviors of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google while working for the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. Khan primarily worked on the Google section of the report. The Democratic proposal offered sweeping reforms to the antitrust laws that would make it more difficult for the tech giants to buy smaller companies, among other suggestions.