In a series of letters to the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is claiming FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan is overstepping the agency’s legal authority, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The chamber, in three letters dated Friday, outlined potential breaches of administrative procedure. The chamber contends these breaches could open the FTC to legal challenges.
The newspaper said the chamber is ready to file 30 requests using the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain documents that could include Khan’s personal communications and those who work for her. Chamber officials said the request is aimed at determining which outside groups might be influencing her.
"It feels to the business community that the FTC has gone to war against us, and we have to go to war back,” Suzanne Clark, the chamber’s president and chief executive, said.
But FTC spokeswoman Lindsay Kryzak, referring to steps announced Thursday to facilitate criminal prosecutions of corporate defendants, said: "The FTC just announced we are ramping up efforts to combat corporate crime, and now the chamber declares 'war' on the agency.
"We are not going to back down because corporate lobbyists are making threats. We will continue to do our job and stand up for consumers, honest businesses, workers, and entrepreneurs who deserve a fair marketplace.”
The Journal noted that Khan has used several strategies for slowing down the merger market. She is also looking at new rules that could place restrictions on business conduct deemed unfair or anti-competitive.
"I think people are surprised by the breadth of what she is trying to do,” said Neil Bradley, the chamber’s chief policy officer.
One of the chamber letters took issue with two warnings the FTC recently sent to about 1,800 business owners. The FTC had warned businesses about touting fake reviews and misleading endorsements, and against making false advertisements for moneymaking opportunities, the Journal noted.
"The business community puts the commission on notice that any attempt to use [the broad warnings] beyond its authority could subject the agency to legal challenges," the chamber said in one of the letters.
In another letter, the chamber noted a perceived procedural violation around a new FTC policy aimed at deterring legally questionable mergers.
One of the three votes in favor of enacting that particular policy came from Rohit Chopra, who had resigned weeks earlier, the newspaper said. The two Republicans on the commission had criticized the policy and complained about the "zombie vote."
The Journal said Khan has wide support among progressives. "She’s going to bring the kind of fresh thinking that the FTC has needed for a long time," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Khan, considered a progressive, aims to expand the agency’s authority to include economic factors beyond consumer welfare to include corporate concentration and income inequality.
The two Republicans on the five-member FTC and some conservative members of Congress have been concerned that Khan might try to take a more aggressive stance on regulating industries.
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