FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan testifies during the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce hearing titled “Oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission,” in Rayburn Building on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.
Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan refused to recuse herself from the agency’s case against Meta Platforms against the advisement of top agency officials, according to internal FTC documents published by Bloomberg News.
An ethics official recommended Khan remove herself from a 2022 review of Facebook parent company Meta’s proposed merger with virtual reality fitness service Within Limited to “avoid an appearance of partiality.”
“From a federal ethics perspective, I have strong reservations with Chair Khan participating as an adjudicator in this proceeding where — fairly recently, before joining the Commission — she repeatedly called for the FTC to block any future acquisition by Facebook,” Lorielle Pankey, a designated ethics official, wrote in the August 2022 memo.
The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
Pankey added that Khan’s decision to adjudicate the case “is not per se a federal ethics violation.” The FTC defended Khan’s involvement in the case, and the agency’s Democratic majority approved her decision over the objections of former Republican commissioner Christine Wilson, Bloomberg reported.
Wilson stepped down earlier this year.
Khan’s perceived opposition to Meta acquisitions spurred the company’s request to disqualify her participation in the case. The FTC blocked Meta’s petition in February, though a federal judge allowed the acquisition to proceed.
The FTC sued the tech firm to block the Within Limited merger in July 2022. FTC Bureau of Competition Deputy Director John Newman accused Meta of “trying to buy its way to the top” through an “illegal acquisition.”