Federal Trade Commission President Lina Khan has been increasingly resentful since taking over as head of the Commission. Not only has Khan outlined an aggressive policy agenda, but she has also sought to expand the Commission’s powers and centralize control of the agency within her own office, prompting Professor Richard Pierce to predict that her tenure will be a “rollercoaster ride”.
Khan’s aggressive, progressive agenda has drawn strong opposition from parts of the business community. The FTC’s move to eliminate the use of non-compete agreements has been labeled a “breathtaking power grab” and will prompt a serious legal challenge. Another case against Wal-Mart has prompted the giant retailer to doubt its viability Humphrey’s executor and challenge the constitutionality of the FTC.
Khan’s plan also caused unease within the FTC and apparently led one commissioner – Christine Wilson – to resign. Wilson writes in The Wall Street Journal:
Much ink has been spilled about Lina Khan’s attempts to overhaul federal antitrust law as chair of the Federal Trade Commission. Less has been said about her disregard for the rule of law and due process, and how senior FTC officials enable her to do so. I have repeatedly failed to convince Ms. Khan and her enablers to do the right thing, and I refuse to give their efforts any semblance of legitimacy by staying. Accordingly, I will soon be resigning as FTC Commissioner.
Since Ms. Khan’s confirmation in 2021, my staff and I have spent countless hours seeking to uncover her abuses of government authority. That task has become increasingly difficult as she has consolidated power within the Office of the President, breaking decades of bipartisan precedent and undermining the commission structure that Congress wrote into law. I have sought to ensure transparency and facilitate accountability through speeches and statements, but I face limitations on the information I can reveal – many legitimate, but some manufactured by Ms Khan and the Democratic majority to avoid embarrassment.
That the Republican commissioner of the FTC opposes Khan’s plan may come as no surprise. On the other hand, perhaps more surprisingly, Khan’s approach to leadership has also fueled dissent within the FTC’s career ranks.
From Wilson WSJ comment:
I am not alone in my concerns about the honesty and integrity of Ms. Khan and her senior FTC management. Hundreds of FTC employees respond to the Federal Employee Attitudes Survey each year. In 2020, the final year under Trump’s appointment, 87% of FTC employees surveyed agreed that the agency’s senior officials maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Today, that share is 49%.
Many FTC staff agree with Ms. Khan on antitrust policy, so these poll results do not necessarily reflect disagreement with her goals. Instead, the data conveys the staff’s discomfort with her ways, which involve dishonesty and deception to pursue her cause. I don’t agree with Ms. Khan’s political goals, but I understand that elections have consequences. My fundamental concerns about her leadership of the commission relate to her willful disregard for congressionally imposed limits on the agency’s authority, her defiance of legal precedent, and her abuse of authority to achieve desired results.
Just because Khan’s leadership style is unusual or unconventional does not (necessarily) mean that she is doing anything wrong, nor does it mean that her policy initiatives will not survive a legal challenge. On the other hand, the types of objections that are raised could be those that might raise a court’s concerns or suggest the kind of failure to engage in reasonable decision-making that often leads agencies to defeat in court.