Big Technology

Internal FTC Memo Announces Major Cuts Ahead of Tech Giant Action

FTC executive director David Robbins tells staff the agency will cut its case costs, freeze hiring, and lower IT spending as its resources dry up

Alex Kantrowitz
Published in
5 min readNov 19, 2020
Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Late last month, David Robbins, executive director of the Federal Trade Commission, sent a sullen memo to all staff.

The agency is at the forefront of the U.S. government’s effort to check the tech giants’ imposing power. It’s examining how Amazon uses its marketplace to squeeze suppliers. And it’s poised to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook any day now.

Yet Robbins wasn’t there to deliver pats on the back: He was announcing a wave of significant cost cuts that could harm the FTC’s ability to bring cases.

“None of the cuts listed below are going to be easy,” Robbins said. “And none are what we would choose if we had ample funding.”

The Robbins memo, obtained by Big Technology, listed six areas where the agency would cut costs. In its first bullet point, it declared the FTC would either bring fewer cases or cut crucial litigation resources, including experts and case transcripts.

“Everything you’ve just recited is a breathtaking constraint on capacity,” former FTC Chairman William Kovacic told Big Technology when asked about the memo. “It severely limits what the institution is going to do.”

In addition to decreasing case costs, the FTC will freeze hiring; decrease spending on consumer education, including call centers, which log complaints about fraudulent and unfair business practices; lower spending on services such as training; delay and possibly cancel staffers’ year-end bonuses; encourage leave without pay; and cut IT spending. The agency is doing just about everything it can to cut costs, outside of layoffs.

Congress has made a show of hauling big tech executives before their committees, but its members disdain the idea of funding the regulators who restrain the abuses they decry.



Alex Kantrowitz

Veteran journalist covering Big Tech and society. Subscribe to my newsletter here: