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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The head of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan, told the White House in a letter released Monday that she plans to probe mergers of retail gasoline stations in order to avert potentially anti-competitive behavior that could drive up the cost of gas, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The letter indicates Khan will act on a request White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese made earlier this month.

  • Deese had requested that the FTC examine trends in gasoline prices for potentially unlawful conduct.

Details: In the letter, Khan writes, "I am concerned that the Commission’s approach to merger review in recent years has enabled significant consolidation, particularly when it comes to retail fuel outlets."

  • Such consolidation, Khan states, may be raising the price of gas at the pump.

What they're saying: "I will ask that we identify additional legal theories to challenge retail fuel station mergers where dominant players are buying up family-run businesses," Khan told Deese. "I am especially interested in ways that large national chains may 'restore' higher prices through collusive practices, and I will direct our staff to investigate any signs of this type of conduct."

  • Khan also wrote that the FTC will "investigate abuses in the franchise market," through which national chains force franchises to sell gasoline at higher prices.

Between the lines: This is a move spurred on by the administration's concerns that the rising price of gasoline will curtail the economic recovery.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 30, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Putting gasoline prices in perspective

Expand chart
Reproduced from Energy Institute at Haas; Chart: Axios Visuals

This may be cold comfort to anyone feeling the pinch of higher gasoline prices, but a new analysis explains why looking only at per-gallon costs tells an incomplete story.

How it works: University of California economist Severin Borenstein's commentary offers other metrics to look at prices nationwide and in his state, the nation's costliest.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

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