Democrats urge Amazon, Facebook to stop campaigning for FTC Chair Khan’s recusal in antitrust cases

Democrats urge Amazon, Facebook to stop campaigning for FTC Chair Khan’s recusal in antitrust cases


Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talks with reporters after the Senate Democratic coverage luncheon in the Capitol on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

A gaggle of Democratic lawmakers despatched a letter to Amazon and Facebook on Wednesday, urging them to stop campaigning for Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan’s recusal from antitrust issues involving their companies.

“Your efforts only add to the perception that you are attempting to bully your regulators, disarm the FTC, and avoid accountability rather than to strengthen ethics standards, and you should cease these efforts immediately,” wrote Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

Both corporations have filed petitions for recusal requesting Khan chorus from collaborating in antitrust issues involving their companies. They pointed to previous statements by Khan and her former employers as proof that she has prejudged their cases and already decided their legal responsibility.

The FTC has not but taken motion in opposition to Amazon on antitrust grounds, although it has reportedly probed the enterprise. But Facebook is in the midst of preventing a authorized problem from the company. Though a judge threw out the FTC’s initial complaint in opposition to Facebook, which alleged the social media firm illegally maintained monopoly energy, the FTC has till Aug. 19 to file an amended criticism.

The FTC and Khan haven’t but responded to the petitions for recusal. Khan has beforehand mentioned she doesn’t have monetary conflicts that may require her recusal below federal ethics legal guidelines.

Amazon’s and Facebook’s petitions level to her previous work, nevertheless, like her breakout 2017 Yale Law Journal article entitled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” advocating for a brand new framework to implement antitrust legal guidelines in opposition to digital platforms. Khan additionally labored for the political advocacy group Open Markets Institute and helped compile the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust report about competitors in digital markets.

While Amazon and Facebook argue her previous work makes clear she has already made up her thoughts, her supporters say it truly simply reveals Khan’s deep information of the area.

“The real basis of your concerns appears to be that you fear Chair Khan’s expertise and interpretation of federal antitrust law,” the lawmakers wrote.

There is a few courtroom precedent that would again Khan up. For instance, in the Seventies, a federal courtroom ordered the FTC chair on the time to take away himself from a rulemaking course of after he had been vital of its topic. But an appeals courtroom later overturned that call.

Plus, legal experts say the query of recusal would doubtless be far much less critical in a matter the place Khan was considered one of 5 votes on the fee to file a criticism in federal courtroom. By distinction, courts have been much less favorable in cases the place the commissioner in query would function a decide themselves below the FTC’s inside administrative legislation course of. The FTC has the choice of bringing its case in opposition to Facebook to its own administrative law judge quite than refile in federal courtroom, however that would current higher recusal questions.

In their letter on Wednesday, the lawmakers turned the query of recusal round on the businesses themselves. They requested Amazon and Facebook to present data on what number of in-house and outdoors attorneys they employed who previously labored for the FTC, Department of Justice or for a state legal professional basic. They additionally requested what measures the businesses take to guarantee these attorneys do not improperly have interaction with their former authorities employers and what protocols they use to ensure attorneys recuse themselves when acceptable.

“If you are serious about ending conflicts of interest in Washington, you can show your sincerity by supporting legislation that makes federal ethics rules and enforcement even more stringent,” they wrote. “Otherwise, your efforts to sideline key federal regulators simply act as further evidence that you will go to all lengths to ward off necessary scrutiny of your immense market power.”

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