Federal Trade Commission nominee Christine Wilson testifies during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in the Hart Building on February 14, 2018.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Christine Wilson, the only remaining Republican on the Federal Trade Commission, announced Tuesday that she plans to resign, citing what she says is Democratic Chairwoman Lina Hahn’s “disregard for the rule of law and due process.”
Wilson announced her resignation, which she said would come “soon,” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Throughout Hahn’s tenure at the helm of the commission, Wilson frequently bemoaned her approach in public hearings and speeches.
Wilson wrote in her assessment that she had failed to “convince Ms. Khan and her aides to do the right thing, and I refuse to lend any semblance of legitimacy to their efforts by staying.”
Khan, who was one of the most prominent figures in the progressive antitrust movement, advocated a broader approach to enforcement, including by taking high-risk cases that could push the boundaries of current case law. This approach made her unpopular with more conservative antitrust thinkers, including Wilson.
Khan’s approach is fraught with risk, as evidenced most recently by the FTC’s refusal in court to block Meta’s proposed acquisition of VR fitness app developer Within Unlimited. But Khan’s supporters tend to argue that if regulators win all their cases, they likely won’t bring enough of them.
Wilson criticized the fact that Hahn did not recuse herself from the administrative process on the Meta-Within deal based on her statements before joining the agency, which is advocating that the company not make future acquisitions. Wilson also alerted two other commissioners who supported her decision. The FTC ultimately ended the administrative process anyway after failing to obtain a preliminary injunction in federal court.
Wilson said she also objects to major redactions of her statement opposing Khan’s decision not to recuse herself, saying it does not contain any confidential business information and the redactions “have no purpose other than to protect Ms. Khan from confusion”.
Wilson also spoke out against Hahn’s other rulings, such as a rule that seeks to ban most non-compete clauses that Wilson says exceed the agency’s authority. She also argued that in the absence of Congress passing legislation to limit mergers, Khan is “doing it by decree.”
“Abuse of regulatory authority now substitutes for unfulfilled legislative desires,” Wilson wrote.
Without Wilson, the FTC will be left with three members on its usual five-member roster: Hahn and Democrats Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya. Former commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips, a Republican, resigned in October, but without the broad criticism that Wilson had written. Phillips thanked Hahn in his public memo on leaving the commission, though he also criticized some of the actions she had taken in the past.
The vacancy means President Joe Biden now has the option to nominate two commissioners, though neither can be a Democrat, as only three commissioners can be from the same party at a time.
“While we have often disagreed with Commissioner Wilson, we respect her commitment to her beliefs and are grateful for her public service,” Hahn, Slaughter and Bedoya wrote in a joint statement. “We wish her well in her next endeavours.”
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