VICE: Biden Antitrust Pick Is an Expert on How to Break Up Big Tech

March 24, 2021 Media

On Monday, Biden nominated Columbia Law School professor Lina Khan to join the Federal Trade Commission as one of its three Democratic commissioners. Khan has emerged in the past few years as one of the more prominent progressive voices advocating for aggressive antitrust action.

Khan will replace Rohit Chopra, who Biden has chosen to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and who Khan worked for as a legal fellow in 2018. Over the past few years, Khan has served in increasingly prominent roles in antitrust debate and policy formation. She served as legal counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, where she was one of the key architects of its damning report on how digital platforms were flagrantly anticompetitive.

Now, with her nomination to the FTC, as well as that of fellow antitrust advocate and Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu to the National Economic Council, there is hope that Biden is signaling that his antitrust agenda will be an aggressive one. The reaction to her nomination was near-universal praise from antitrust scholars recognizing her impact, the focus of her work, and hope for the future.

Earlier in March, Leah Nylen reported for Politico that the Obama-era FTC simply refused to enforce antitrust law even when they had evidence Google was clearly violating it. According to the report, the FTC uncovered anticompetitive business practices designed to support Google’s search dominance. But instead of acting on it, they came up with a rationale to excuse the behavior that leaned on laughably bad predictions about the future and saw only a “limited potential for growth” in the digital ad space.

This matches other post-mortems of the Obama administration’s antitrust regime, which antitrust advocates like the American Economic Liberties Project have sketched out as a failure. In its own report on the administration’s antitrust enforcement, the think tank summarized the approach as dominated by “enforcers carrying the consumer welfare banner” who “subverted President Obama’s public pledges to structure markets to be fairer and more stable.”