Don’t believe the hype.

The undeniable fact is that the FTC has racked up a long list of victories over corporate abuses, like busting a nationwide, decades-long fraud that tricked people into paying for “free” tax preparation.

The wheels of justice grind slowly, so many of the actions the FTC has brought are still pending. But these actions are significant. In tandem with the Department of Justice, it is suing over fake apartment listings, blocking noncompete clauses, targeting fake online reviews, and going after gig work platforms for ripping off their workers.

Companies that abuse our privacy and trust are being hit with massive fines: $520 million for Epic’s tricks to get kids to spend money online, $20 million to punish Microsoft for spying on kids who use Xboxes, and a $25 million fine against Amazon for capturing voice recordings of kids and storing kids’ location data.

The FTC is using its authority to investigate many forms of digital deception, from deceptive and fraudulent online ads to the use of cloud computing to lock in business customers to data brokers’ sale of our personal information.

And of course, the FTC is targeting anticompetitive mergers, like Nvidia’s attempted takeover of ARM - which has the immediate effect of preventing an anticompetitive merger and the long-term benefit of deterring future attempts at similar oligopolistic mergers. They’ve also targeted private equity “rollups,” which combine  dozens or hundreds of smaller companies into a monopoly with pricing power over its customers and the whip hand over its workers. These kinds of rollups are all too common, and destructive of offline and online services alike.

From Right to Repair to Click to Cancel to fines for deceptive UI (“dark patterns”), the FTC has taken up many of the issues we’ve fought for over the years. So the argument that the FTC is a do-nothing agency wasting our time with grandstanding stunts is just factually wrong. As recently as  December 2023, the FTC  and DOJ chalked up ten major victories

But this “win/loss ratio” accounting also misses the point. Even if the outcome isn’t guaranteed, this FTC refuses to turn a blind eye  to abuses of the American public. 

What’s more, the FTC collaborated with the DOJ on new merger guidelines that spell out what kinds of mergers are likely to be legal. These are the most comprehensive, future-looking guidelines in generations, and they tee up enforcement actions for this FTC and its successors for many years to come.

The FTC is also seeking to revive existing laws that have lane dormant for too long. . As John Mark Newman explains, this FTC has cannily filed cases that reassert its right to investigate “competing” companies with interlocking directorates.

Newman also praises the FTC for “supercharging student interest in the field,” with law schools seeing surging interest in antitrust courses and a renaissance in law review articles about antitrust enforcement. 

The FTC is not alone in this. Its colleagues in the DOJ’s antitrust division have their own long list of victories.

But the most important victory for America’s antitrust enforcers is what doesn’t happen. Across the economy and every sector, corporate leaders are backing away from merger-driven growth and predatory pricing, deterred from violating the law by the knowledge that the generations-long period of tolerance for lawless corporate abuse is coming to a close.

Even better, America’s antitrust enforcers don’t stand alone. At long last, it seems that the whole world is reversing decades of tacit support for oligopolies and corporate bullying. 

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