Federal Trade Commission expands antitrust powers in Chair Lina Khan's first open proceeding

The Federal Trade Commission approved a pair pivotal measures to expand its authority to regulate anti-competitive business practices in an open meeting. This sets the stage for aggressive enforcement by the embattled agency.Last week's announcement of Thursday's proceeding was the first open-business meeting of the commission since more than 20 years. Traditionally, proceedings were closed to the public. Chair Lina Khan intends to hold open meetings on a monthly schedule going forward.This meeting opened the door to an aggressive antitrust strategy by the agency. Three separate measures were adopted that expanded the power of the commission to prosecute anticompetitive business practices.We want to signal that the FTC is up to the task of modernizing the economy.The commission voted to repeal a 2015 Statement of Enforcement Principles, which restricted FTC Acts prescriptions regarding unfair methods of competition to specific violations of antitrust law (specifically Sherman and Clayton Acts). This was the most aggressive effort. Voting was conducted along party lines and passed 3-2 with Democrats.Khan introduced the motion. In practice, however, the 2015 statement doubles down on the agency's failure to investigate and pursue unfair competition methods.The FTC can pursue lawsuits against misconduct, even if it is not in violation of antitrust law, without this restriction. The FTC is still evaluating whether to replace this statement with general guidelines or a broader set of rules against specific practices.Pro-business groups are still divided over the decision to revoke the 2015 order. It is likely that a legal challenge will be brought against it.The Supreme Court clearly voted to reinstate the non-delegation doctrine. This doctrine states that Congress can make laws. TechFreedom, a pro-business think tank, made this statement before the vote. If the FTC departs from antitrust law's clear principles, it could be the first case to test that long-dormant doctrine.Another 3-2 vote was given by the FTC to simplify the rulemaking process to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts and practices. The changes were introduced by Rebecca Kelly Slaughter. They are procedural in nature, and lift a lot of bureaucratic constraints on the commission that have hindered its ability to respond to any misconduct.Slaughter stated that they wanted to show that the FTC today is prepared to face the challenges of the modern economy. These streamlined procedures will allow us to tackle cutting-edge problems.A series of resolutions were passed by a third vote, 3-2. These resolutions aim to streamline FTC investigations. They also allow individual commissioners to open investigations into specific industries or conduct. Khan introduced the measure by stating that she believes there are a variety of industries in which such an investigation is appropriate. These include technology platforms, healthcare and pharmaceuticals.Antitrust activists have long sought to expand FTC powers. This has been the subject matter of many proposals by Congressional Democrats. However, it has been met with fierce resistance from tech companies as well. A FTC complaint against Facebook was dropped in court this week. It is unclear how Khan's agenda will stand up to judicial challenges.