Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan suggested this week that she plans to devote more resources to the “root causes” of unlawful activity than to prosecuting small-time violators.
“We need to orient our enforcement efforts around targeting root causes rather than looking at one-off effects,” she said this week in a memo distributed to the other commissioners and staff. “This means focusing on structural incentives that enable unlawful conduct -- be it certain conflicts of interest, business models, or structural dominance -- as well as looking upstream at the firms that are enabling and profiting from this conduct.”
She added that a focus on root causes “can avoid a whack-a-mole approach that imposes significant enforcement burden with few long-term benefits.”
She also said the FTC must address “rampant consolidation and the dominance that it has enabled across markets,” with a focus on the largest companies.
“We need to be intentional in how we direct our resources,” the memo states. “Growing evidence suggests that market power now looks to be an increasingly systemic problem across the economy, so we should generally focus our resources on the most significant actors, where our enforcement actions can have the greatest impact on the everyday lives of Americans.”
Khan didn't name any specific companies in the memo, but before she joined the FTC she served as counsel to Democratic staff on the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, which criticized Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google in a report issued last year.
Khan also said the agency should be “forward-looking,” by paying particular attention to “next-generation technologies, innovations, and nascent industries across sectors.”
She added: “Timely intervention -- be it checking anticompetitive conduct that would lead markets to tip, or targeting unfair practices before they become widely adopted -- can help us tackle problems at their inception, both limiting harms and saving resources over the long term.”