Comer launches probe into FTC Chair over allegations of abuse made by former commissioner

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee launched an investigation Thursday into the conduct of Lina Khan as chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Commissioner Christine Wilson recently resigned from the panel after concerns about the integrity of the FTC under Ms. Khan’s leadership, citing abuses of power and disregard for the rule of law and federal ethics standards.

In a letter to senior officials at the FTC, Sen. James Comer, Kentucky Republican and the panel chairman, requested documents and communications to review these accusations and whether and how Ms. Khan might be implicated. 

“Commissioner Wilson declared her intent to resign over deep concerns that the Commission, under current Chair Lina M. Khan’s leadership, is abusing its power and disregarding the rule of law, due process, and federal ethics laws,” Mr. Comer added.

Mr. Comer requested documents and information to shed light on Commissioner Wilson’s allegations and said the matter raised by Ms. Wilson raises concerns as to whether the FTC under her leadership has become “a rogue agency.”

The Kentucky Republican also noted that his committee wants to know if recent resignations during Ms. Khan’s tenure “are due to White House influence.”

The Washington Times reached out to the FTC for comment but did not immediately hear back.

Ms. Wilson, a Republican and an appointee of former President Donald Trump, resigned from her post in March after serving as a commissioner for nearly five years.

She wrote in her resignation letter to President Biden that under Ms. Khan’s leadership, an appointee of Mr. Biden’s, that “knowledgeable career staff have been scorned and sidelined.”

She continued, “Most notably, early in her tenure, a gag order was imposed on staff that prevented them from engaging in consumer and business education — a vote of no confidence in our staff and a disservice to those we serve.”

Ms. Wilson described grievances of several hundred FTC employees taken from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

The FTC “ranked in the top five mid-sized federal agencies between 2010 and 2017, and ranked either first or second between 2018 and 2020,” she wrote. “Since Chair Khan’s arrival, however, the agency’s rankings have plummeted.”

Ms. Wilson referenced “rampant dissatisfaction” among FTC staff that has led to the departures of many “experienced personnel,” causing a notable “brain drain” among seasoned employees.

She also claimed that enforcement numbers on the consumer protection side had declined.

“In 2020, under Chairman [Joseph] Simons, the FTC brought 79 consumer protection actions. But in 2021, that number declined by more than half, to 32. And in 2022, this number increased to 46 — again, still well short of Chairman Simons’ 79 actions in 2020,” she said.

In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Ms. Wilson wrote that FTC leadership “abused the merger review process to impose a tax on all mergers, not only those that hinder competition” and that progressives attempted but failed to enact a legislative moratorium on mergers in early 2020 and to pass other restrictions since then.

“Ms. Khan now does so by fiat. Abuse of regulatory authority now substitutes for unfulfilled legislative desires,” she wrote.

Former Commissioner Noah Phillips, also an appointee of Mr. Trump, resigned from the FTC last October.

In April 2022, Mr. Phillips said the Biden administration is “as hostile to mergers and acquisitions as any in my lifetime” during his remarks in San Francisco at the Berkeley Spring Forum.

“Antitrust enforcement over the last 15 months has been anything but vigorous—indeed, it has been sclerotic,” he said. “By that, I mean not just fewer cases being brought, but a longer process with fewer decisions being made.”

Source: WT