Antitrust expert John Kwoka to advise the Federal Trade Commission chairwoman on merger policies

man with white hair and glasses
John Kwoka, the Neal F. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of Economics, is taking a one-year leave of absence from teaching to serve as chief economist at the Federal Trade Commission. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

John Kwoka, the Neal F. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of Economics whose research focuses on U.S. merger policy, will step away from teaching for one academic year to take a senior advisory role at the Federal Trade Commission.

Kwoka, whose most recent book—Controlling Mergers and Market Power: A Program for Reviving Antitrust in America—makes nearly 50 recommendations for revising merger policy, will serve as chief economist to FTC chair Lina Khan. Among her objectives is to take a hard look at mergers and see how policies should be strengthened, Kwoka says.

“My role is to advise [her] on matters that she wants economic input and advice on,” Kwoka says. “Lina has come to the FTC with a big agenda and a great deal of energy, and she invited me to sign up to participate in the mission.”

The agency investigates anti-competitive mergers and business practices that could harm consumers in the form of higher prices or lower quality. Its docket includes a lawsuit blocking a $40 billion computer chip industry acquisition. The commission alleges that the combined company would have the means and incentive to stifle technologies, including those used to run datacenters and driver-assistance systems in cars.

The agency is also suing Facebook, accusing the social media giant of monopolistic behavior to eliminate threats to its dominance. Recently, U.S. President Joe Biden asked the agency to look into potentially illegal and anti-competitive behavior in the oil and gas industry that may be driving higher gas prices for drivers.

“It is a very busy agency,” says Kwoka.

He officially joined the FTC in mid-November, a move that earned plaudits from Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern.

“This is a terrific achievement and a testament to John Kwoka’s expertise and mastery of antitrust and regulatory economics,” Aoun says. “Northeastern is proud to have John Kwoka representing our global university system in the public policy arena.”

Kwoka will be on leave from the university after the fall semester concludes at the end of the month. “I’ve committed to one academic year,” he says. “After that point, all three of us—myself, Northeastern, and the FTC—will decide whether we want to renew it.”

The professor is no stranger to government work, having served a previous stint at the FTC as well as the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department. “I’ve stayed in touch with the antitrust policy circuit in Washington,” he says.

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