Facebook on Wednesday filed a petition calling for Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan to recuse herself from the agency’s antitrust case against the company, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The social media giant argued that Khan, a former activist and congressional aide that has long pushed for stronger antitrust policies, is biased against big tech firms.
“Chair Khan has consistently made public statements not only accusing Facebook of conduct that merits disapproval but specifically expressing her belief that the conduct meets the elements of an antitrust offense,” the petition said.
“When a new commissioner has already drawn factual and legal conclusions and deemed the target a lawbreaker, due process requires that individual to recuse herself,” the company added.
The petition came just weeks after Amazon sought Khan’s recusal from an antitrust investigation into the company over her past criticism of the retail giant.
“Given her long track record of detailed pronouncements about Amazon, and her repeated proclamations that Amazon has violated the antitrust laws, a reasonable observer would conclude that she no longer can consider the company’s antitrust defenses with an open mind,” the Amazon petition said.
Amazon argued that Khan has made “numerous and highly detailed public pronouncements” about the company. “Indeed, she has on numerous occasions argued that Amazon is guilty of antitrust violations and should be broken up,” it said.
Recusal would likely split votes:
The FTC has not commented on the petitions but Khan has said that she would consult with ethics officials if potential conflicts arose.
The FTC is considering filing a new antitrust lawsuit against Facebook after a judge dismissed the agency’s previous complaint, which predated Khan. The commission is also investigating potential antitrust violations by Amazon and its recent acquisition of film studio MGM.
The FTC has a 3-2 Democratic majority but Khan’s recusal would mean that the vote on whether to pursue either investigation would be split between Democrats and Republicans, who voted against the first Facebook lawsuit in December.
Wayne State University law professor Stephen Calkins, a former FTC attorney, told The Wall Street Journal there is “very little history of successful challenges” to a commissioner’s participation, though some decades-old cases were vacated by courts due to findings that the commissioner should have been disqualified.