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Tim Wu, Tech Expert and Law Professor, to Step Down From White House Advisory Role Next Week

By Sarah May
|
December 31, 2022

The White House announced this week that Tim Wu, a top-level advisor on tech issues and competition policy, will be departing the role has held since March of 2021 and returning to Columbia University Law School, where he previously served as a professor, according to Politico.

Wu is widely known for having been the force behind a 2021 executive order issued by President Joe Biden directing federal agencies to undertake greater efforts to bolster competition across the U.S. economy and encouraging the Federal Communications Commission to restore controversial “net neutrality” rules.

White House departure

The key Biden advisor confirmed the news of his impending departure himself in a tweet that included a link to a New York Times article discussing the same.

“In the New Year I'll be leaving the White House and returning to Columbia University. We did more tha[n] I thought possible over the last two years to set a new course in antitrust and economic policy, and I'm grateful to have been a part of it,” Wu declared.

In the aforementioned Times article, Wu indicated that he decided to step down from his high-profile post in order to spend more time with this family, which includes young children.

Commuting regularly between New York City and Washington, D.C. had, according to Wu, become increasingly untenable, given his obligations as a father.

“There is a time when the burden on family is too much. I've been feeling the balance has shifted,” Wu said.

Executive order's architect

Wu's work on the aforementioned executive order was particularly notable given its vast scope with regard to anticompetitive forces in the tech and Internet services realms.

As Fox Business reported at the time, the order encompassed 72 different actions and proposals in addition to the restoration of “Net Neutrality rules undone by the prior administration,” limitations on Internet service early termination fees and deals restricting consumer choice among providers.

The order also pledged heightened scrutiny of mergers within the tech and Internet service industry and stronger review of the way in which “dominant tech firms are undermining competition and reducing innovation.”

Also on the list of to-dos outlined in the order was the imposition of closer monitoring on tech firms' “acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by 'free' products, and the effect on user privacy.”

Biden's sweeping order also included provisions tailored to the banking, personal finance, healthcare, agriculture, and transportation industry sectors, and the White House claimed that it would “lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, and promote innovation and even faster economic growth.”

Controversial achievement

The order itself – with Wu as its primary driver – received mixed reactions when it was issued last summer, with Democrats lauding its provisions and conservatives expressing strong reservations.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) praised the document and declared, “Next, Congress must pass new legislation to strengthen the federal agencies responsible for enforcement and outlaw the anticompetitive practices plaguing our markets today,” as Fox Business further noted.

By contrast, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted the order, opining that it evinced a “'government knows best' approach to managing the economy” and pledged to “vigorously oppose calls for government-set prices, onerous and legally questionable rulemakings, efforts to treat innovative industries as public utilities, and the politicization of antitrust enforcement.”

Duties transferred

Amid Wu's exit, his areas of oversight are being split among existing White House personnel, including, according to Politico, Hannah Garden-Monheit and Elizabeth Kelly.

Garden-Monheit will reportedly take the reins on competition policy, while Kelly, who has specialized in the area of digital assets since early 2022, will handle tech policy issues.

The White House noted that additional members of the team are likely to be added in the coming weeks and months, though no names of possible candidates have yet emerged.