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Amazon wants critic atop US regulatory body sidelined

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Amazon argues that Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan, seen at her April confirmation hearing, is biased against the company./AFP
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Jul 01, 2021 - 01:14 AM

SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon on Wednesday petitioned a key US regulatory agency to have its leader left out of any antitrust matters involving the company, arguing she is biased against the company.

The tech and e-commerce colossus contended that newly appointed Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan’s history of criticizing Amazon’s market clout makes it impossible for her to be fair when it comes to investigating the company.

The prominent advocate of breaking up Big Tech firms was sworn in as chair of the FTC agency in June, ramping up the potential for antitrust enforcement.

Khan has built a career on contending Amazon violates antitrust laws, indicating that the company would not get the kind of impartial scrutiny it is legally entitled to in FTC probes led by her, the company argued.

“Amazon should be scrutinized along with all large organizations,” read a copy of the petition obtained by AFP.

“However, even large companies have the right to an impartial investigation.”

The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The petition came as the FTC was reportedly set to review Amazon’s deal to buy the storied MGM studios for $8.45 billion, giving the US tech giant a vast content library to further its ambitions in streaming.

The acquisition would bolster Amazon Prime Video, which competes with Netflix and others in the fast-evolving market, with some 4,000 films — including the James Bond franchise — and 17,000 television shows.

Amazon has experienced surging growth in online retail and cloud computing, while making a push into entertainment as more consumers turn to streaming media.

Khan authored a 2017 law journal article called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” which argued that the current framework for antitrust enforcement pegged to “consumer welfare” is ill-equipped to deal with “market power in the modern economy” of giants such as Amazon.

“Chair Khan has made numerous and highly detailed public pronouncements regarding Amazon,” the petition argued.

“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.”

The news comes with Big Tech facing an avalanche of litigation and political pressure from those who say the companies have too much power and should be broken up.

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