Antitrust Agitator Khan Refutes Critics, Plans to Stay at FTC

Lina Khan isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

(Bloomberg) — Lina Khan isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Khan, who has become somewhat of a pariah to big business for her antitrust enforcement, plans to remain as chair of the US Federal Trade Commission for at least another year, an agency official told Bloomberg News. 

She is vowing to stay despite being slammed by House Republicans for waging a “leftist crusade” against big business, having two GOP commissioners blame her for their resignations and being the subject of prolific rumors on her pending departure.

“Chair Khan is 100% committed to the FTC and proud to lead its talented staff who have worked tirelessly to block illegal mergers, ramp up protection for data and privacy, and proposed rules to ban noncompete clauses and get rid of unnecessary junk fees for consumers,” said FTC spokesman Douglas Farrar.

Khan, 34, became chair of the antitrust and consumer protection agency in June 2021 on a two-year leave of absence from her job as a professor at Columbia Law School. During her tenure, Khan has pushed the agency to aggressively pursue antitrust litigation and has sued Microsoft Corp. over its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc. and unsuccessfully tried to block Meta Platforms Inc. from buying a virtual reality startup. 

The FTC under Khan has also undertaken controversial rulemakings to ban noncompete agreements and rein in so-called “commercial surveillance” by online firms.

The coming expiration of her leave of absence and parental leave she took in January after the birth of her first child led to speculation that Khan would leave the FTC this summer to return to New York or move to the White House to replace her former Columbia colleague, Tim Wu.

The FTC said Khan has no intention of leaving her post in the near future.

Khan is negotiating with Columbia to extend her leave of absence, the FTC confirmed, pointing to her comments to a House panel this month. 

“My term goes through 2024 and I fully intend to continue serving,” Khan told the House Energy and Commerce committee on April 18. “I intend to continue to serve in this position.”

Khan’s efforts initially focused on fights with the largest US tech corporations. But her more recent proposal targeting noncompete agreements in January has drawn opposition from across the corporate landscape. Some businesses argue that these contracts help them retain talent and protect sensitive information, but the FTC says that they’re an unfair drag on the economy, and that banning them will increase wages by $300 billion annually.

The proposed rules on the noncompetes, combined with potential privacy regulations, led to a hammering by Republican lawmakers earlier this month as Khan and her two colleagues — Democrats Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya – appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to ask for an increase in funding.

“Maybe instead of carrying out President Biden’s leftist crusade, unsuccessfully, you could instead prioritize the resources we give you to help vulnerable Americans,” said Republican Gus Bilirakis of Florida, who chairs the panel’s innovation, data and commerce subcommittee. 

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