Jan 23, 2017

FTC chair contender may limit cases against companies

Republican FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen is reportedly going to be named acting chair of the agency by Donald Trump in the near future. If given the job, here's what she could do, according to remarks at a conference today:

  • Direct staff to look for "substantial harm" when investigating industry practices — which would likely limit the number of cases brought by the agency.
  • Convene a workshop to revisit on the standards used by the agency when deciding when to intervene in with agency action.

What she probably couldn't do: Pull back on the agency's recent lawsuit against Qualcomm. Ohlhausen said she believed doing so would require a majority commission vote, and the only other commissioner who will be left after Chairwoman Edith Ramirez resigns in February voted for the lawsuit. Reminder: Trump needs to appoint two Republicans and one Democrat to complete the panel and restore Republican majority.

Net neutrality: Olhausen said Congress should consider getting rid of a legal exemption that prevents the FTC from bringing action against so-called "common carriers" in light of the FCC's recent net neutrality rules. (Currently, broadband providers are squarely in the FCC's jurisdiction.)

Privacy: She also said the FTC and FCC should work together and questioned whether separate privacy regimes for broadband providers and tech companies "continue to make sense."

Neither confirm nor deny: Ohlhausen isn't confirming reports suggesting that she'll head the FTC. "I have not met with President Trump," she said. "He's been busy with a lot of things, but I've certainly been talking with the transition team."

Go deeper

Inside hackers' pivot to medical espionage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A wave of cyber-spying around COVID-19 medical research is once more demonstrating the perils of treating cybersecurity as a separate, walled-off realm.

Driving the news: U.S. officials recently announced an uptick in Chinese-government affiliated hackers targeting medical research and other facilities in the United States for data on a potential COVID-19 cure or effective treatments to combat the virus. Additionally, “more than a dozen countries have redeployed military and intelligence hackers to glean whatever they can about other nations’ virus responses,” reports the New York Times.

The downsides of remote work

Data: Reproduced from Prudential/Morning Consult "Pulse of the American Worker Survey"; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a large-scale experiment in working from home. It has gone well enough that many companies are expanding their remote work expectations for the foreseeable future, and remote employees want to continue to work that way.

Yes, but: The downsides of remote work — less casual interaction with colleagues, an over-reliance on Zoom, lack of in-person collaboration and longer hours — could over time diminish the short-term gains.

Hong Kong's economic future hangs in the balance

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Beijing forces a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, the once semi-autonomous city's status as one of Asia's largest financial hubs is at risk.

Why it matters: Political freedoms and strong rule of law helped make Hong Kong a thriving center for international banking and finance. But China's leaders may be betting that top firms in Hong Kong will trade some political freedoms for the economic prosperity Beijing can offer.