Her Academic Paper Set Stage for Epic Amazon Fight

FTC chief Lina Khan is going after Jeff Bezos' company as a monopoly
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2023 12:41 PM CDT
Her 2017 Academic Paper Previewed Big Amazon Fight
FTC chief Lina Khan.   (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP, File)

The feds and 17 states are going after Amazon in a long-anticipated legal fight that could take years to play out. And for Federal Trade Commission chief Lina Khan, the fight is a long time coming. As the New York Times notes, she first came to national attention as a Yale law student in 2017 with an academic paper arguing that Amazon uses illegal monopolistic practices. Coverage:

  • The paper, titled "Amazon's Antitrust Paradox," is here.
  • "Although Amazon has clocked staggering growth, it generates meager profits, choosing to price below-cost and expand widely instead," she wrote at the time. "Through this strategy, the company has positioned itself at the center of e-commerce and now serves as essential infrastructure for a host of other businesses that depend upon it. Elements of the firm's structure and conduct pose anticompetitive concerns—yet it has escaped antitrust scrutiny."

  • Tuesday's lawsuit "is the evolution" of her 2017 paper, per the Washington Post (also owned by Jeff Bezos). She argued that current monopoly law is too narrowly drawn for the likes of Amazon. "This vision—that monopoly law should extend beyond the prices consumers pay—has placed Khan at the center of a broader political movement to more aggressively and creatively enforce the nation's antitrust laws," per the story. The Times has a similar take, saying the paper "helped kick off a debate about whether U.S. antitrust laws needed to be modernized to rein in tech giants."
  • The Financial Times sees the landmark lawsuit as "one of the biggest tests yet of Khan's more aggressive enforcement stance towards Big Tech, which she believes has skirted regulatory scrutiny for decades." In terms of Amazon, the lawsuit accuses the company of using "a set of interlocking anti-competitive and unfair strategies" that stifle competition and prevent sellers from lowering prices.
  • Familiar foe: "There are very few people who understand Amazon as well as (Khan) does," Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocate for independent businesses, tells Vox. Amazon is very familiar with her as well. Its lawyers have previously argued, unsuccessfully, that she be recused from antitrust matters against the company, given her 2017 academic paper.
(More Lina Khan stories.)

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