Lina Khan, nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), speaks during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 21, 2021.
Saul Loeb | Pool | Reuters
Amazon is pressing for the recusal of FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan from ongoing antitrust probes of the e-commerce giant, citing her past criticisms of the company’s power.
In a 25-page motion filed Wednesday with the FTC, Amazon argued that Khan has made public comments about Amazon and its conduct, including that the company is “guilty of antitrust violations and should be broken up,” suggesting she lacks impartiality in antitrust investigations into Amazon.
Amazon spokesperson Jack Evans told CNBC in a statement that Khan has made her views clear through previous work with anti-monopoly group Open Markets Institute, law journal articles and her involvement in the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust’s sweeping probe into big tech companies.
“Amazon should be scrutinized along with all large organizations. However, even large companies have the right to an impartial investigation,” Evans said. “Chair Khan’s body of work and public statements demonstrate that she has prejudged the outcome of matters the FTC may examine during her term and, under established law, preclude her from participating in such matters.”
An FTC spokesperson declined to comment, saying petitions and letters to the FTC are not public.
Earlier this month, Khan was sworn in as chair of the FTC. The surprise move came just hours after she was confirmed by the Senate to serve as a commissioner.
During her confirmation hearing before the Senate, Khan told Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, she has no financial conflicts that would make her subject to recusal under ethics laws. She said she would follow the evidence where it leads.
Khan made her first big splash in antitrust circles with her 2017 Yale Law Journal article, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” The article, which she wrote while still a law student, argued that the popular antitrust framework focused on consumer welfare, was inadequate to assess digital giants like Amazon.
The consumer welfare standard often looks at whether prices go up or down for consumers, but Khan advocated for a more expansive view of antitrust enforcement that could take into account Amazon’s role as a platform on which its own rivals rely. She said it was also necessary to understand why a high-growth platform might engage in predatory pricing.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.