In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina M. Khan highlighted the agency’s broad consumer protection and competition mandate and pointed to the need for increased funding and staffing to meet growing law enforcement needs in today’s modern markets.
“The FTC is at the front lines of many of the most pressing issues Americans face today— from corporate mergers that can enable firms to hike prices and slash wages, to massive data breaches that can expose Americans’ most sensitive and personal information,” said Chair Lina M. Khan. “I continue to be impressed by the tenacity and creativity of our staff in the face of an ever-increasing workload, opposing parties with endless resources, and legal challenges to our authority. We are keen to fully deliver on our mission—but without the additional funding, it will continue to be a challenge.”
Khan’s testimony noted that the agency is responsible for enforcing 82 different statutes across the full breadth of American commerce. While recent budget increases have been helpful, she noted, the agency’s staffing level is still one-third smaller than it was four decades ago.
In her testimony, the Chair also detailed how the FTC has worked tirelessly to meet the enormous demand of enforcing the laws against unlawful mergers amid a historic surge. While the agency has moved aggressively to maximize the impact of its budget, the testimony noted that it remains extremely challenging to fully resource the FTC’s competition mission.
The volume of merger filings —filings the FTC is required to review under the Clayton Act— has significantly outpaced and overwhelmed the agency’s ability to investigate them. For example, the number of merger filings has increased to more than 3,500 in 2021 alone. Khan noted that the agency does not have sufficient resources to meet its obligations to conduct its investigations of those mergers in a timely manner, especially as transactions have grown in complexity over the decades.
Khan pointed to numerous enforcement actions in both the competition and consumer protection space that have yielded important benefits for consumers and the market. She noted that additional resources would ensure that the agency will continue to enforce laws that protect consumers from unfairness and deception across the economy, from keeping a close eye on oil and gas markets to protecting consumers’ privacy online to fighting ongoing fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic.