By Jeffry Bartash
One of the nation’s top anti-monopoly regulators on Wednesday said the government is looking to expand its playbook on how to identify and block potentially harmful mergers or industry consolidation.
“As we have seen the growth of new technologies, the market dynamics have changed,” said Lina Khan, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, in an interview with CNBC.
The FTC and U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday said they would seek public input on how to update government rules to prevent anti-competitive mergers.
Biden administration officials contend old antitrust rules are inadequate to prevent harm to the economy since they are too narrowly focused on price fixing.
Khan, 32, has said there’s too little competition in too many industries and that it can stifle innovation or even harm workers. For the first time regulators are considering whether to give more weight to the impact of industry consolidation on labor.
Historically antitrust regulators sought to ensure that each industry had at least a handful of major competitors. Yet Khan said that in some cases regulators need to act earlier and not wait until, say, the third and fourth largest competitors seek to merge.
“When you start to see trends toward consolidation, those can often be important moments for regulators to jump in,” she said.
Khan and other regulators are especially focused on large technology companies such as Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +1.83% and Google /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +4.16% . The FTC is now engaged in a lawsuit against Facebook now known as Meta.
Asked how quickly she wants to move, Khan said she feels a “fierce sense of urgency.” They tenure of FTC chairs has averaged five years since the late 1990s and the leadership usually switches whenever there is a change in party control of the White House.
“We are going to everything we can to enforce the law in an even-handed way,” Khan said.