Amazon seeks recusal of FTC chair Lina Khan in antitrust probes of the company

Lina Khan, the nominee for Federal Trade Commission Commissioner (FTC), speaks at a confirmation hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, April 21, 20, 2021.Amazon is requesting that FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan be removed from antitrust probes against the e-commerce giant. She cites her past criticisms about Amazon's power.Amazon filed a 25-page motion Wednesday to the FTC arguing that Khan had made public comments about Amazon's conduct and that it is "guilty" of antitrust violations. This suggests that Khan lacks impartiality when conducting antitrust investigations into Amazon.CNBC spoke with Jack Evans, an Amazon spokesperson. Evans stated that Khan had made her opinions clear through her previous work with Open Markets Institute and law journal articles. She also participated in the House Judiciary Subcommittee's broad probe into tech companies."Amazon should also be investigated along with other large companies. Evans stated that even large corporations have the right to an impartial inquiry. "Chair Khan's work and public statements show that she has prejudged what the FTC will decide during her term. This, according to established law, prevents her from participating in such matters."A spokesperson for the FTC declined to comment. He stated that petitions and letters to FTC are private.This comes as multiple areas of Amazon's business are being investigated by regulators both in America and overseas. The European antitrust watchdog led by the head of Europe brought charges against Amazon last year and launched a second probe into Amazon's core retail business. The FTC and Congress are looking into Amazon's treatment for third-party sellers.The Wall Street Journal reported that the FTC is also reviewing Amazon's proposed acquisition MGM Studios. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a request to the FTC on Wednesday asking it to conduct a thorough and comprehensive review of the MGM deal. She argued that it could have anticompetitive consequences in the streaming market and could potentially cause harm to small businesses.Khan was sworn into office earlier this month as the chairperson of FTC. This surprise decision came only hours after Khan was confirmed by Senate to serve as a Commissioner.Khan stated to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that she does not have any financial conflicts that could make her subject for revocation under the ethics laws. Khan said that she would listen to the evidence.Khan's 2017 Yale Law Journal article "Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox" made her debut in antitrust circles. Khan wrote the article while still in law school. It argued that Amazon's antitrust framework, which focuses on consumer welfare, is not adequate to evaluate digital giants such as Amazon.Khan advocated for an expanded view of antitrust enforcement, which could include Amazon's role in the marketplace on which its rivals depend. She stated that it was important to understand the reasons why high-growth platforms might engage in predatory pricing.Companies and advocacy groups are not afraid to challenge the involvement of commissioners in specific cases, based on their biases.A federal court ordered Michael Pertschuk, the then-FTC Chairman, to resign from a rulemaking inquiry into television advertising targeted at children in the late 1970s. This was due to his criticisms of such practices. However, an appeals court overturned the ruling.Pertschuk eventually decided to withdraw from the matter, claiming that it was distracting from the inquiry.Amazon pointed out in the letter a previous case in which an FTC chair had made a statement that indicated his judgment on an ongoing matter. This was deemed inappropriate. The court ruled in Cinderella Career & Finishing School v. FTC that the refusal by the chair to withdraw himself was a violation of due process.Amazon noted that the court also condemned the chair in a previous case where he investigated the same facts while working at Capitol Hill.