Lina Khan, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, faced more than three hours of criticism and ridicule from Republicans in a House hearing Thursday, as emboldened critics increasingly pressure the agency for its crackdown on the growing power of tech giants.
During the highly partisan hearing, Republicans accused Ms. Khan, 34, who has pursued an aggressive agenda of lawsuits and investigations against technology companies, of “bullying” businesses. The lawmakers, who repeatedly cut Ms. Khan off mid-sentence, also ridiculed her for the FTC’s recent losses in antitrust cases and for wasting government resources.
“You’re now 0 for 4 on merger attempts,” Representative Kevin Kiley, Republican of California, said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. “Why are you losing so much?”
The lightning-filled session capped a bumpy week that brought greater scrutiny to the FTC. It was Ms. Khan’s first public appearance since a judge ruled on Tuesday against the agency’s attempt to block Microsoft’s $70 billion acquisition of Activision. It was a major defeat in a technical case for the FTC after another judge ruled in May against its attempt to block Meta’s acquisition of virtual reality app maker Within.
Ms. Khan has become a lightning rod for her efforts to curb corporate power and give the FTC more teeth in enforcement. Since President Biden chose her to lead the agency two years ago, she has said the FTC is too complacent and needs to bring more lawsuits against companies, even if it hasn’t always won. Even in court losses, she said, the cases expose the need to update antitrust laws for the digital age.
In Thursday’s hearing, Ms. Khan, a legal scholar, said she did not bring cases she thought she would lose. But without referring to the Microsoft case, she acknowledged the risks of her strategy.
“We fight hard when we believe there has been a violation of the law, and unfortunately things don’t always go our way,” Ms Khan said.
The losses did not dampen her focus on the technology industry. On Thursday, the FTC filed to appeal the court’s ruling on Microsoft’s deal with Activision. Also this week, it opened an investigation into the artificial intelligence startup, OpenAI, which makes the ChatGPT chat room, for potentially harming consumers through privacy and security flaws and for spreading false information about individuals.
The White House reiterated its support for Ms. Khan on Thursday. “Chair Khan has delivered results for families, consumers, workers, small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Michael Kikukawa, White House assistant press secretary, said in a statement.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.