Online giant Amazon is pushing for Lina Khan, the head of the Federal Trade Commission, to be excluded from antitrust matters involving the company on the grounds “she no longer can consider the company’s antitrust defenses with an open mind”.
Amazon argues Khan’s history of working for an antitrust advocacy group and public statements made expressing her belief the company and big tech peers Apple, Facebook and Alphabet-owned Google engaged in anti-competitive conduct mean she cannot be considered an objective adjudicator where it is concerned.
In 2017 Khan penned a piece for the Yale Law Journal in which she argued current antitrust law fails to take into consideration anti-competitive strategies employed by companies like Amazon. She accused the e-commerce giant of exploiting the short term and price focus of antitrust rules to engage in activities such as predatory pricing. She also worked for the House of Representatives judiciary committee, which published a report outlining what it claimed as anti-competitive behaviour by FAANG peers Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
In a filing requesting Khan be recussed from involvement in antitrust matters involving Amazon, the tech giants argued:
“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”.
“Indeed, doing so would require her to repudiate the years of writings and statements that are at the foundation of her professional career.”
The Federal Trade Commission is conducting an investigation into Amazon as part of a number of ongoing inquiries looking at various activities antitrust concerns have been raised over, including the planned acquisition of film studio MGM.
Khan has only recently taken over as FTC chair, having been appointed by President Joe Biden last month after her confirmation as commissioner. Despite Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump’s regular accusations of the Democrat party being “in bed with big tech”, the new administration has shown signs it intends to take an aggressive position against the growing dominance of the biggest tech companies.
Khan herself immediately pushed back against Amazon’s attempts, stating:
“Let me say upfront, I have none of the financial conflicts or personal ties that are the basis for recusal under federal ethics laws. I would be approaching these issues with an eye to the underlying facts.”
She was immediately supported by David Cicilline of Rhade Island, the Democratic representative who chaise the House antitrust subcommittee, who said of Amazon’s move to have her recursed:
“This is the problem when a company has this enormous economic and political power. It is a level of arrogance that is hard to really appreciate.”
Investors in Amazon were, however, yet to show much concern over the development yesterday. The company’s share price held relatively flat, down just 0.2%.
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