Amazon wants FTC Chair Lina Khan to recuse herself in antitrust probe

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Amazon said it wants the new head of the Federal Trade Commission to recuse herself from any antitrust probes of the e-commerce giant, arguing that her past criticisms of the company show she can’t treat it fairly. 

Lina Khan, a 32-year-old legal prodigy who was confirmed as head of the FTC just two weeks ago, is reportedly probing the company’s $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM Studios.

Prior to becoming FTC head, Khan wrote extensively on antitrust and Amazon in both legal and popular media. For example, in a 2014 Quartz op-ed, Khan wrote that “Amazon has a monopoly in books” and a “dominant position in our economy.” In a 2017 Yale Law Journal article, she pointed to “anticompetitive aspects of Amazon’s struggle and conduct.” 

In a 25-page motion that Amazon filed with the FTC on Wednesday, the company pointed to these articles and others as examples of Khan’s alleged inability to treat the company fairly. 

“Given her long track record of detailed pronouncements about Amazon, and her repeated proclamations that Amazon has violated the antitrust laws, a reasonable observer would conclude that she no longer can consider the company’s antitrust defenses with an open mind,” the company headed by billionaire Jeff Bezos wrote in the motion. 

Federal ethics principles require commissioners to recuse themselves when they have “expressed views that go beyond general policy commentary” and relate instead to specific companies, Amazon argued. 

A spokesperson for the FTC did not reply to a request for comment. 

Khan’s reported probe into Amazon’s MGM acquisition got a boost Wednesday when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent the FTC chair a letter calling for “meticulous antitrust scrutiny” of the transaction. 

The Amazon motion did not mention MGM specifically but instead asked for the chair to broadly recuse herself from all matters involving the company.

In addition to the FTC’s alleged scrutiny of the MGM deal, Amazon is taking heat from Congress. Last week, a bill that could force big tech companies to sell off many of their business lines was passed by the House Judiciary Committee.

The FTC’s attempts to rein in another big tech company, Facebook, suffered a major setback Monday when a federal judge dismissed an antitrust suit filed by the agency.

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