Lina Khan, a Big Tech Critic, Tries Answering Her Own Detractors

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I think we’ve seen time and time again that when you have a company that has captured control over a key artery of commerce, that control can be used unlawfully. That was partly what animated the passage of the antitrust laws where Congress recognized that the dominance of the railroads and their control over key arteries of commerce was really allowing these small number of companies to pick winners and losers in our economy to shape the trajectory of innovation.

Those are the same types of principles that we are considering, and that’s animating our work now.

Instead of blocking or approving deals, you’ve sent some letters to companies saying if they close their deals, they are doing so at the risk of your agency coming back to block them later. Should we expect you to revisit deals that have closed?

We have 30 days after parties make a filing with us to determine if we’re going to do a deep-dive investigation. Thirty days is an extremely short amount of time when you have deals that are so large and that are so complicated. And so there are going to be instances, especially when you have the type of surge in merger filings that we did last year, that by the end of the 30 days our staff has not faithfully been able to come to a clear determination.

And so in those instances, we signaled the parties were needed, that our investigation is ongoing, and they shouldn’t take the lapse of that expiration period as a sign of somehow the F.T.C. approving the deal.

We retain the authority and the ability to challenge consummations after the fact. Our inaction is never signaling that we approve a deal.

Can your work really rein in tech, which often outpaces rule-making and policy?A lot of the work that we’ve done has really broadened the aperture for how we’re understanding and recognizing and diagnosing harm. We’re really trying to be forward looking, anticipating problems and taking swift action, rather than just, you know, 10 years down the line realizing, oh, there was a big problem and a big moment that we missed.

I think this goes back to being attentive to these next-generation technologies and next-generation innovations in nascent industries across sectors. Those can really help us tackle problems at the inception.
What do you make of a recent survey of agency employees that shows lower morale?

That’s something that I take incredibly seriously. I’ll say as a general matter, you know, this is a moment of incredible change at the agency, and we know that moments of change can be difficult.