Lina Khan: Pakistani-American Law Professor Behind Biden's Pro-competition Executive Order
US President Joseph R. Biden has signed a sweeping executive order to promote competition in a wide range of industries from big tech to telecommunications, transportation, banking and healthcare. This order has come within weeks of the appointment of young Pakistani-American law professor Lina Khan as the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairperson. Lina Khan, 32, is the youngest FTC chairperson in American history. She now holds one of the most powerful positions in the US government.
|Biden Handing Pen to Lina Khan After Signing Executive Order|
Biden's executive order includes 72 initiatives for federal agencies, targeting issues such as excessive early termination fees charged by internet companies, which hinder users from switching service providers. It calls for the end of noncompete agreements that block workers from moving to rival employers, according to Nikkei Asia. “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation,” Mr. Biden said before signing the order. “Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want, and treat you however they want. And for too many Americans that means accepting a bad deal for things that you can’t go without.”
Lina's 2017 seminal paper entitled "Amazon's Anti-trust Paradox" broke new ground in the application of anti-trust law against powerful technology monopolies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter. Traditionally, the US anti-trust actions have been focused on keeping consumer prices low. This narrow focus has helped big technology companies companies like Amazon, with its low prices, or Google and Facebook with their “free” services, to avoid anti-trust scrutiny.
Lina was born in London in 1989 to Pakistani parents who migrated to the United States when she was 11. She graduated from Williams College with a BA degree and then studied law at Yale University. She is now an associate professor at Columbia Law School in New York City.
|Anti-Trust Scholar Lina Khan|
US tech companies are facing increasing scrutiny in Washington over their growing size and power. In October 2019, an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee issued a 449-page report. It accused the big technology companies of charging high fees, forcing smaller customers into unfavorable contracts and of using "killer acquisitions" to constrain competitors. "To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons," it said. The appointment of Lina Khan as FTC commissioner sends a clear signal to the US tech giants that the Biden administration means business.
Lina Khan acknowledges the popularity of the convenience and the free services offered by the large technology giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google but she worries about the longer-term implications of their anti-competitive behavior. “As consumers, as users, we love these tech companies,” she said. “But as citizens, as workers, and as entrepreneurs, we recognize that their power is troubling. We need a new framework, a new vocabulary for how to assess and address their dominance", she told the New York Times.
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