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London-born law prof becomes head of US competition regulator aged just 32

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From ‘unknown law student’ to ‘hipster antitrust chief’ to Federal Trade Commissioner in just four years

Lina Khan (credit: YouTube)

A London-born legal academic who graduated from law school just four years ago has become the new head of the US competition regulator.

Lina Khan, 32, was sworn in as chair of the Federal Trade Commission on 15 June. An associate professor at Columbia Law School, Khan shot to fame in 2017 after publishing a seminal academic article on Amazon’s anti-competitive practices.

Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox appeared in the Yale Law Journal in January 2017 and was almost immediately credited with revolutionising thinking on US competition policy.

At the time, Khan was “an unknown law student”, as a New York Times profile put it. She wouldn’t graduate from Yale until later that year.

Khan was born in London to Pakistani parents who moved to the US when she was 11. She spent her childhood in Golders Green, according to the Financial Times.

The precocious Brit (who has lost all trace of her original accent, sadly) got her first taste of the law as a legal assistant at White & Case in 2010. She later landed a job with a think tank where she first developed an interest in antitrust (American for competition law).

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Her Amazon article argued that antitrust focuses too much on whether dominant companies are ripping consumers off and ignores the damage to competition by “predatory pricing” targeting rivals.

“The current framework in antitrust”, Khan wrote, “is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output”.

While some derided her line of thinking as “hipster antitrust”, liberal opinion seems to be on Khan’s side. Her appointment is expected to lead to more intervention into US mega-firms.

Modern antitrust is traditionally seen as the intellectual brainchild of Robert Bork, whose 1978 The Antitrust Paradox argued that so long as consumers were getting a good deal, regulators shouldn’t worry too much about big companies gobbling up or forcing out competitors. (For comparison, he published that aged 51, after a stint as Solicitor General.)

Khan, unsurprisingly, is the youngest Federal Trade Commission boss ever. The organisation has 1,100 staff and a budget of over $350 million (about £250 million).

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18 Comments

Anon

What’s her salary though.

(14)(4)

Person

Her predecessor earned $180k in 2018 according to a FOI request, probably not a stretch to say she’s on give or take $200k – not a bad salary for non-commercial law

Besides everybody knows the real gravy train in these jobs are the countless 8 hour a week “consulting” gigs you pick up once you leave office, always coincidentally hired by firms you acted favorably towards during your time in office. She probably has quite a lucrative career ahead of her.

(25)(0)

Anon

No wonder she decided against private practice after experiencing White & Case. One sweatshop to rule them all.

(37)(0)

Archibald Pomp O'City

This woman has more analytical ability in her lunulas than the majority of btl commentators on this site share collectively.

(9)(2)

Anon

Speak for yourself Archie

(2)(0)

A non-knee mousse

…and this is good news?

(2)(2)

Monopoly Watch

Well done to her! Young, intelligent, ambitious, and hopefully in a position to take down Amazon once and for all!

(16)(1)

Archibald Pomp O'City

Don’t be so bloody silly. Her role isn’t to “take down” the likes of Amazon.

(3)(2)

Common Sense Man with a Common Sense Opinion!

That Jeff Bezos! Proper greedy ‘e is! All that money and he does NOTHING with it! NOTHING!!! If I had all that wonga I’d donate half to charity then spend the rest on tellies and nice sofas!!!

(13)(1)

Casual observer

This article appears misleading:

(1) According to her Linkedin, she has only recently joined Columbia – from September 2020; the second sentence indicates or implies she has been there since or before 2017. In any event, it seems misleading.

(2) As she attended Oxford (3-4 years) and then Yale (4 years), she graduated around 2017. Which means that she has been working for 4-5 years or so (her first full-time job on Linkedin is 17). This appears at odds with the tone of the article and the indication that she has been working since 2010 (at W&C).

(3) In 2015 and 2016 she was a “summer associate” i.e. the equivalent of a UK vacation scheme. The citing that she was a “legal assistant” at W&C seems misleading as she wasn’t qualified and therefore was either a vac schemer (likely) or a paralegal (without the LPC, probably unlikely). It is possible she left Oxford without a training contract and paralegalled for a year and a bit, got the Yale offer, went travelling.

(4) It is a notable omission of this article that she hasn’t had a job at the same place for more than a year since she left university for the working world (well one she survived slightly longer). Her CV date is accurately detailed as: following university, she spent a few months at the FTC, then a few months to less than a year as an “academic fellow” at Columbia, a year and a half at the HJC, before coming to Columbia in September 2020, and now it appears she’s gone from that for this new regulatory role.

(5) As a result of the points above (that she has only very recently left university, hasn’t stayed in any job for very long etc), and the fact the above article has not indicated any particular accomplishments besides an article she wrote for her student journal, it is difficult to see exactly what she has achieved. A casual observer would speculate that it is a political appointment and/or one based on personal relationships. If a 2PQE suddenly became partner at Freshfields, I imagine it would be fair to speculate on the circumstances and merits of that if there are thousands of candidates who have years and/or decades of additional relevant experience on her.

(12)(7)

Old Guy

Why do people like you write these long opinion pieces without getting even the basics right? Did you even do the most cursory of searches before writing this? Since when is Williams College the same as Oxford University?

(9)(1)

FlourPour

I’m not sure how insightful it is to argue that her appointment as chair of the FTC is a political one. She knows a lot about the stuff the Biden administration wants the committee to focus on.

(0)(1)

And your analysis achieves what?

What sour grapes.

Are you in a better career position than being chair of the Federal Trade Commission?

(6)(1)

cishets dudes typing paragraphs again...

She went to Williams. She worked in some kind of think tank before Yale. She got picked for the FTC job about a year after getting tenure at Columbia. Get your facts straight.

Also no one expects her to be the most experienced person ever. She’s a political appointee that is anti big tech monopolies and presumably has a lot of energy and willingness to go after them. That’s what she brings. Not decades of professional experience in a legal role (which would be completely unnecessary surely).

(1)(1)

Old Guy

The OP even put Yale (4 years) when any joker with even a basic understanding of the US legal system knows that a JD is 3 years. It was pure waffle.

(3)(2)

Casual

Me again:

(1) Her Linkedin says she went to Oxford – whether she was at Williams for 4 years, Oxford for a semester (appears to be so), or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter.

(2) To the person who said “get your facts straight” re her career history, I was posting verbatim from her Linkedin and the dates provided.

(3) One person indicates it’s not a political appointment, another says she’s a political appointee. In any event, the definition of a political appointee is essentially that it a non merit based appointment based on political affiliation. Which goes against the whole tone of the article.

(4) The final counter: “she a political appointee. That’s good. She’s got energy. Experience doesn’t matter. Energy. Great energy.” The last FTC commissioners had decades of experience in relevant competition law. I’ll leave it there.

(0)(5)

Old Guy

Just accept you wrote drivel. Check her Wikipedia profile or do a google search and see the numerous articles that pop up with her biography before spouting rubbish. Your reference to training contracts and vacation schemes is nonsense given she is US qualified, which means taking the bar exam after the 3 year JD. You don’t know what you are talking about, and simply going on someone’s LinkedIn profile and writing rubbish based on your misunderstanding of what it says is not impressive.

Archibald Pomp O'City

She better, richer and prettier than you, little boy.

(3)(0)

Comments are closed.

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