A U.S. congressional committee is asking the Justice Department to examine
and a few of its executives for what lawmakers say is doubtlessly prison obstruction of Congress, in accordance to folks acquainted with the matter and a letter containing the request.
The letter, dated March 9 and seen by The Wall Street Journal, was despatched to U.S. Attorney General
by Democratic and Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee.
The letter accuses the Seattle-based tech large of refusing to present info that lawmakers sought as half of an investigation by the physique’s Antitrust Subcommittee into Amazon’s aggressive practices. The letter alleges that the refusal was an try to cowl up what it calls a lie that the corporate instructed lawmakers about its therapy of exterior sellers on its platform.
Amazon couldn’t instantly be reached for remark. In the previous, a spokesman has denied that the corporate or its executives misled the committee and has stated that inner coverage prohibits utilizing particular person vendor knowledge to develop Amazon merchandise. Amazon investigates any allegations that the coverage might need been violated, the spokesman has stated.
The Justice Department couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.
Throughout the investigation, “Amazon repeatedly endeavored to thwart the Committee’s efforts to uncover the truth about Amazon’s business practices,” the congressional letter says. “For this, it must be held accountable.” The letter says it’s alerting the Justice Department to “potentially criminal conduct by Amazon and certain of its executives,” although it doesn’t specify which people.
The letter escalates tensions between Amazon and lawmakers who performed a 16-month antitrust investigation into it and three different tech giants:
now generally known as Meta Platforms Inc.
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The investigation produced an October 2020 report that criticized all four companies and has fueled legislative proposals aimed toward curbing their energy. But the lawmakers’ interplay with Amazon has been notably contentious, in accordance to folks concerned, and the brand new letter makes it the one one of the 4 corporations that Judiciary Committee members have accused of unlawful obstruction.
At problem are Amazon’s responses to lawmakers’ inquiries about the way it makes use of the info of third-party sellers on its platform when creating private-label merchandise, and the way it treats these Amazon manufacturers in its search outcomes.
Amazon executives repeatedly instructed members of the House committee in testimony and written responses that it doesn’t use the info of particular person third-party sellers to inform the huge traces of its personal manufacturers, and doesn’t privilege its personal merchandise within the search outcomes on its platform.
A Journal investigation revealed in April 2020, citing inner paperwork and interviews with former Amazon staffers, discovered the corporate’s staff routinely used such seller data to develop products for its own brands. Subsequent reporting from Reuters, Politico and the Markup confirmed staff utilizing this knowledge and Amazon preferencing its personal merchandise in search outcomes. Lawmakers have stated additionally they gained related info via their very own interviews with folks together with former Amazon staff.
When he appeared earlier than the House Antitrust Committee in July 2020, in what was his first time testifying earlier than Congress, Amazon founder and government chairman
stated he couldn’t guarantee that its policy was always followed. He agreed to share with members of the panel the outcomes of an inner investigation Amazon was conducting following the Journal article.
Committee members requested Amazon to produce proof to assist its denials, together with a report from the investigation Mr. Bezos had referenced. In conferences with congressional workers and written testimony, Amazon or its attorneys refused to produce the investigation report and different paperwork, in accordance to the letter and folks acquainted with the matter. Instead, the letter says, Amazon representatives offered broad denials with out supporting proof.
In October, committee members despatched a letter to Amazon Chief Executive
urging the corporate to provide “exculpatory evidence” surrounding its private-label enterprise practices. Lawyers representing Amazon met with authorized counsel for the committee following the letter however didn’t produce the requested proof, saying the investigation Amazon had performed was privileged info between legal professional and consumer, in accordance to folks acquainted with the matter.
Amazon “has refused to turn over business documents or communications that would either corroborate its claims or correct the record,” the letter says. “And it appears to have done so to conceal the truth about its use of third-party sellers’ data to advantage its private-label business and its preferencing of private-label products in search results—subjects of the Committee’s investigation.”
The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman
(D., N.Y.), Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman
(D., R.I.) and committee members Reps.
(R., Fla.) and
Write to Dana Mattioli at [email protected]
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