UPDATE 1-FTC chair Khan accused of 'abuse of power' in new US House probe

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(Adds comment from Chamber of Commerce, paragraphs 9-0)

WASHINGTON, June 1 (Reuters) - The House Oversight Committee's Chairman James Comer opened a probe Thursday into U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan's management of the agency, citing complaints of abuse of power.

Khan has angered companies and trade groups like the Chamber of Commerce by pushing the FTC, which enforces antitrust law and laws against deceptive marketing, to be more aggressive in investigations and law enforcement.

In a letter to Khan and agency officials dated Thursday, Comer cited complaints made by former commissioner Christine Wilson, a Republican.

"We are concerned that the developments at the Commission cataloged by Commissioner Wilson and others could undermine consumers' and markets' confidence in the Commission's ability to perform its functions effectively and with integrity," Comer wrote in the letter.

Comer's letter cited Wilson's concern over a transaction by Meta Platforms. She had accused Khan of abuse of power by voting to challenge Meta's acquisition of virtual reality content maker Within. Wilson argued that Khan had said before coming to the FTC that Meta should be barred from making additional acquisitions, and that this meant Khan should be recused from FTC deliberations regarding the deal.

The FTC lost a court fight aimed at stopping that transaction and the deal went forward.

"Under Chair Khan, the FTC is proud to be defending American consumers from harm and ensuring fair competition in the economy. We look forward to working with Congress to dispel former Commissioner Wilson's imaginative allegations," FTC spokesperson Douglas Farrar said in an email.

The committee asked for documents related to the probe, including unredacted documents related to whether Khan should recuse herself from discussions about Meta's plan to buy Within as well as discussions about the use of delay in order to deter or prevent corporate mergers.

The pro-business Chamber of Commerce, which is battling the FTC for access to documents for its own probe into how the agency is run, welcomed the congressional investigation.

"We share the concerns raised by Chair Comer, which are now the focus of the committee’s investigation. This investigation is on top of efforts underway by other House committees to bring much needed oversight to an agency that has lost its way," the Chamber said in a statement.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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