Amazon has asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to recuse its new Chair, Lina Khan, from any upcoming antitrust investigations concerning the company, essentially arguing that she’s too qualified for the job.
Khan, who was recently named chairwoman of the federal agency by President Joe Biden, has been very vocal about her views on Amazon in the past, penning extensive legal scholarship and myriad op-eds criticising its monopolistic practices. In a well-known paper, she argued that the current antitrust policy should be broadened to better tackle the unique challenges posed by the tech giant. Her writing, much of which has made arguments along similar lines, has also appeared in the likes of CNN, Quartz, Salon, and others.
As FTC chairwoman, Khan would be in charge of overseeing and leading any upcoming actions taken against the web platform, and, to Amazon, this is clearly a matter of grave concern.
The tech giant filed a 25-page motion with the FTC on Wednesday, arguing that Khan’s vocal criticism of them is a conflict of interest.
“She has on numerous occasions argued that Amazon is guilty of antitrust violations and should be broken up,” the company worries, in the document. “These statements convey to any reasonable observer the clear impression that she has already made up her mind about many material facts relevant to Amazon’s antitrust culpability as well as about the ultimate issue of culpability itself.”
Amazon similarly complained that Khan “has built her academic and professional career in large measure by pronouncing Amazon liable for violating the antitrust laws.”
“In the absence of recusal, she will be directly involved in, and will exercise direct supervisory authority over, virtually all aspects of any investigation of Amazon as well as any prosecutorial or adjudicatory decisions relating to the company,” the motion reads.
It makes sense that Amazon would be so concerned about this, given the growing political interest in breaking up America’s largest companies. On both sides of the political aisle, Congress has recently introduced legislation targeted at curbing tech companies’ most egregious excesses. Meanwhile, the Biden White House has expressed interest in advancing a much more aggressive antitrust agenda during the president’s tenure. The administration is apparently in the process of drafting an executive order that is targeted not just at Big Tech, but at corporate giants more generally.
With the endless revolving door politics between lobbying firms and agency heads, it’s an incredible moment to see a company complain that the person in charge of being critical of corporations’ practices is in fact critical of corporations’ practices.