Majority Counsel, House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee
Antitrust legal scholar
Industry: Academic, legal
Key previous position: Open Markets Institute
Education: Williams; Yale Law
Notable fact: Thesis was on Hannah Arendt
Within a few months of the publication of Lina Khan’s doctrine-shattering study on the antitrust threat posed by Amazon, some lawmakers and staff on Capitol Hill were deriding the young academic’s new framework as “hipster antitrust.”
But Khan didn’t shy away from Congress—instead, she went to work for it.
Though just north of 30 years old, Khan’s impact on both the public and academic sides of a growing debate on the power of America’s largest tech firms is immeasurable.
Within 18 months of graduating law school, she’d published her paradigm-shifting paper on Amazon, worked at progressive tech-advocacy group Open Markets, and advised Rohit Chopra, a Democratic commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, on antitrust issues.
All that activity thrust her into the spotlight, giving Khan the opportunity to shape the public debate as Washington underwent a sudden shift in its once-cozy relationship with tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple.
Today, Khan has receded a bit from the media whirlwind she occupied 12 months ago. But as counsel for Rep. David Cicilline’s Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee, she may be more influential than ever.
In June, Cicilline announced an open-ended probe into the antitrust concerns raised by the activities of Silicon Valley’s largest firms. And while the chairman has said he’ll go where the findings take him, Khan’s presence indicates the potential for an ambitious agenda.
One of Khan’s main gripes with antitrust jurisprudence is its focus on the “consumer-welfare standard”—the notion that companies must drive up prices on consumers in order to be considered a systemic risk, and a monopolistic threat, by the government.
She, along with many others, argues that the unique nature of the tech industry makes the consumer-welfare standard a bygone relic. But unlike other experts, her perch on Capitol Hill gives her the ability to help reshape antitrust laws that haven’t substantively changed in a century.
Such an aggressive effort will take years and require several political stars to align, but Khan is bullish about the effort. She expects to stay on Capitol Hill for at least as long as it takes to finish the investigation—and perhaps long enough to rewrite America’s framework for confronting the largest concentration of corporate power in decades.