March 20, 2023

WASHINGTON — Christine Wilson, the only Republican commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, said Tuesday she would resign soon and criticized the agency’s Democratic chair, Lina Khan, accusing her of “abuse of power.”

Ms Wilson announced her decision in a statement Opinion article from The Wall Street Journal, has been a consistent critic of Ms Khan’s leadership. Ms. Khan, who became FTC chair in June 2021, immediately set about aggressively transforming the agency into a bulwark against tech mergers and monopolies, and a stronger online privacy watchdog.

Ms. Wilson and Noah Phillips, another former FTC member who resigned in October, have repeatedly expressed concern that Ms. Khan’s ambitions exceed the agency’s statutory authority, which enforces consumer protection and competition laws.

In particular, Ms. Wilson criticized the FTC’s lawsuit filed in July to block Meta’s merger with virtual reality app maker Within, as well as its decision last month to ban “non-compete” clauses in employment contracts that limit employees’ choices. At the same time lock the company’s power to retain employees.

Ms. Wilson is a veteran antitrust attorney and was nominated by President Donald J. Trump in 2018 to serve on the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has five commissioners.

“My fundamental concerns about her leadership of the committee relate to her willful disregard for the limits Congress has imposed on the agency’s jurisdiction, her flouting of legal precedent, and her abuse of power to achieve desired outcomes,” Ms. Wilson wrote of Ms. Khan.

In a joint statement with two Democratic FTC commissioners, Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya, Ms. Khan said, “While we often disagree with Commissioner Wilson, But we respect her dedication to her faith and are grateful for her public service.”

Ms. Wilson’s departure is expected to add to political pressure on the agency, which has been criticized by Republican lawmakers and businesses for being too tough on companies. Congress controls the agency’s budget and may threaten to limit the FTC’s power through its funding powers. It could also subpoena Ms Khan for a public oversight hearing.

Ms. Khan defended her actions, saying the agency’s decades-long tolerance of mergers allowed the likes of Google, Meta and Amazon to grow in size and eat up competitors. She pushed the agency to take on riskier cases that might not even be winnable.

President Biden nominated Ms. Khan to lead the FTC as part of a group of progressive antitrust reformers that includes Tim Wu in the White House and Jonathan Kanter, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief. Ms. Khan is overseeing the litigation against Meta and the litigation blocking the merger between Microsoft and Activision.

Ms. Khan, 33, rose to fame in 2017 when she published a paper on Amazon in the Yale Law Journal that questioned decades of thinking about illegal monopolies and the way antitrust laws were applied to tech companies. She continued to gain attention in 2020 for her role in a congressional report calling for breaking up tech monopolies.

Ms. Wilson, along with companies like Meta and Amazon, have called on Ms. Khan to recuse herself from investigations and cases involving them. They said Ms. Khan could not impartially assess a case involving them given her early views of the companies. Ms. Khan is not involved in cases involving Meta and other technology companies.

Ms Wilson did not announce a date for her departure.

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