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Amazon: New FTC chief should stay out of antitrust investigations of the company

Lina Khan has criticized the power of tech giants in the past, Amazon among them.

The Amazon smile logo on a phone screen, with green leaves behind the phone.

In a 2017 law article, Lina Khan argued that current antitrust enforcement doesn't adequately target potential harms caused by Amazon.

Angela Lang/CNET

Amazon said Wednesday that Lina Khan, the new chairwoman of the US Federal Trade Commission, should recuse herself from investigations into the company for potential antitrust violations. In a motion filed to the commission, Amazon said Khan's past criticisms of the company show she's too biased to bring fairness to the proceedings, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier.

"A reasonable observer would conclude that she no longer can consider the company's antitrust defenses with an open mind," Amazon said in its motion, filed Wednesday.

The FTC, which is conducting ongoing probes into Amazon, declined to comment. Khan was confirmed to her position by the Senate on June 15. She authored a paper for Yale Law School in 2017 about potential anticompetitive practices at Amazon, called Amazon's Antitrust Paradox, arguing that current US antitrust enforcement doesn't adequately target the harm the company may be causing with its dominance across several kinds of businesses, especially online retail and cloud computing.

Close up of Lina Khan speaking into a small microphone.

Lina Khan at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in April.

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Citing her work with the Open Markets Institute, writings in law journals and work with the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee to investigate Amazon for antitrust violations, Amazon said in a statement that Khan came into her role with "preconceived views."

"Amazon should be scrutinized along with all large organizations," an Amazon spokesperson said. "However, even large companies have the right to an impartial investigation." 

Khan's appointment came as a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced five antitrust bills targeting practices at tech titans, including one that appears to take aim at Amazon. The American Innovation and Choice Online Act would bar e-commerce companies from using their platforms to promote their own products over items sold by third party vendors that also use the site. It would also prohibit e-commerce firms from using data from those other companies to develop their own products. Amazon, which maintains it follows antitrust laws, has been accused of doing both.

CNET's Erin Carson contributed to this report.