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FTC Chair Admits ‘Things Could Have Been Done Better’ as Commission Workforce’s Morale Plunges

Confidence of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) career staff in senior leadership has declined by 34 percent under the management of Chair Lina M. Khan, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) told an April 18 congressional hearing considering a request for a 37 percent budget increase for the storied regulatory agency that was formed in 1914.

As one of the federal government’s oldest regulatory agencies, the FTC consists of five commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to exercise broad authority to protect U.S. consumers from dishonest business practices. Khan’s tenure has been controversial from the beginning in 2021 when she was appointed by President Joe Biden. Since she took over the agency, two Republican commissioners have resigned in protest of her management practices and policies.

“Chair Khan, under your tenure, the integrity and effectiveness of this independent agency has been repeatedly questioned. You’ve suffered many losses in federal court at all levels of the judiciary branch. You’ve drastically reduced transparency and accountability by cutting out key voices at the agency. Both Republican commissioners have resigned during your tenure. Senior staff have quit in record numbers, with reports in the [media] describing you as ‘abusive’ and a ‘tyrant’,” McMorris Rodgers told Khan in a blistering opening statement. McMorris Rodgers is an ex officio member of the Innovation, Data and Commerce Subcommittee that convened the hearing.

“There has been a 34 percent decline in employee confidence in senior leadership’s respect for them and motivation at work. Former commissioner Christine Wilson cited your disregard for the rule of law as one of the reasons for her resignation. Time and time again, you have prioritized a personal and political agenda over the integrity of the FTC and the interest of Americans,” McMorris Rodgers continued.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee speaks during the hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Subcommittee Chairman Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) also blasted Khan’s management of the FTC, asking how she can justify asking Congress to give the commission a budget increase of $160 million “when we hear how staff has been diverted from mission-critical functions and pulled from bureaus to focus on merger reviews? In fact, there has been such a mass exodus of career staff that you seem to be squandering away the resources that we give you.”

‘Dissatisfaction Not Statistical Anomaly’

In addition, the hearing memo prepared by the subcommittee’s majority staff and made public prior to the hearing pointed out that “under Chair Khan’s leadership, the FTC has seen a precipitous decline in staff approval and th

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