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The first open meeting of the F.T.C. under Lina Khan starts with political sparks. | Press "Enter" to skip to content

The first open meeting of the F.T.C. under Lina Khan starts with political sparks.

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Lina Khan’s first meeting of the Federal Trade Commission revealed political friction and previewed the likely partisan battles to come. Ms. Khan took over as chair last month and made the agency’s monthly meetings open to the public, a major change.

Ms. Khan opened the meeting with a brief statement about the importance of transparency to both inform the public of the agency’s work and create a “robust participatory process.” The meetings will include public comments for the first time.

Not all of the commissioners were pleased. Republican Christine Wilson said she supports transparency but said the new format excludes knowledgeable staff and limits discussion between the commissioners. She also complained that she only learned of the change last week. Ms. Wilson called the meeting “chaos” before voting no on a motion to pass a new “Made in the U.S.A.” rule for labels.

The labeling rule, introduced by Democratic commissioner Rohit Chopra, fortifies enforcement principles for those who “lie on labels,” he said. Mr. Chopra noted that the change would not create new obligations for manufacturers and does not apply to advertising. Mr. Chopra said the new rule would broaden the definition of label to go beyond something that is physically affixed to a good and can apply online. The two Republican commissioners, Noah Phillips and Ms. Wilson, objected, saying that while they support strong enforcement for Made in U.S.A. labels, the proposed change would exceed the F.T.C.’s statutory authority.

The rule was approved by a vote of three to two, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing.

Democratic commissioners, led by Ms. Khan, also voted to rescind a 2015 policy statement on enforcement principles for certain “edge” competition cases. It was approved during the Obama administration by a bipartisan group of commissioners, and its presence on the meeting agenda signaled to Bruce Hoffman, a partner at the law firm Cleary Gottlieb and the former director of the F.T.C.’s competition bureau, that Ms. Khan intended to break with the past, he told The New York Times.

Mr. Phillips objected to Ms. Khan’s proposition, arguing that it was unclear what guideline would replace the policy statement and there was no public comment period. He called the move to rescind without more public input “inconsistent with the rhetoric” about transparency.

The measure passed on party lines.

Mr. Chopra commended Ms. Khan and repeated a phrase he used earlier in the hearing, saying he welcomed the end of “prissy powerlessness” at the F.T.C.


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