February 10, 2020
Sen. Josh Hawley wants to reform the FTC to fight big tech.
His new proposal to overhaul the Federal Trade Commission says that that the agency is currently "in no shape to ensure competition in today's markets, let alone tomorrow's."
- Hawley doesn't mince words. He says the FTC "lacks teeth," "is woefully unaccountable," "lethargic, unwieldy," and "poorly designed."
- But he has proposed a solution. He thinks the agency should be rolled into the Department of Justice, with a single director rather than a group of commissioners. He thinks decisions on mergers and acquisitions should be made by the DOJ's Antitrust Division, not the FTC, and suggests senior FTC staff be banned from working for big companies "for a few years" after they leave.
- He also wants to strengthen the FTC's powers, allowing it to enforce "data interoperability and portability requirements," and giving it the authority to impose civil penalties for first-time offenses, rather than the repeat requirement that currently exists. And he says state attorneys general should be able to enforce all of the FTC's laws.
- The proposal is likely to raise some eyebrows. CNBC notes that the DOJ is part of the executive branch, so Hawley's proposal would bring the commission under the president's control. (Hawley wants the new "director" to report to the associate attorney general, though they'd be confirmed by the Senate.) That may prompt pause for concern among some people, especially given the relationship between President Trump and the current attorney general, William Barr.