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Amazon Flagged to Justice Division for Attainable Legal Obstruction of Congress

Amazon Flagged to Justice Division for Attainable Legal Obstruction of Congress

A U.S. congressional committee is asking the Justice Division to analyze

Amazon.com Inc.

AMZN -1.05%

and a few of its executives for what lawmakers say is probably prison obstruction of Congress, in keeping with individuals acquainted with the matter and a letter containing the request.

The letter, dated March 9 and seen by The Wall Road Journal, was despatched to U.S. Legal professional Basic

Merrick Garland

by Democratic and Republican members of the Home Judiciary Committee.

The letter accuses the Seattle-based tech large of refusing to supply data that lawmakers sought as a part 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 informed lawmakers about its therapy of out of doors sellers on its platform.

Amazon couldn’t instantly be reached for remark. Prior to now, a spokesman has denied that the corporate or its executives misled the committee and has stated that inside coverage prohibits utilizing particular person vendor knowledge to develop Amazon merchandise. Amazon investigates any allegations that the coverage may need been violated, the spokesman has stated.

The Justice Division couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.

Amazon has stated repeatedly that it doesn’t use the information of particular person third-party sellers on its platform to tell the huge strains of its personal manufacturers.



Picture:

Sebastian Hidalgo for The Wall Road Journal

All through the investigation, “Amazon repeatedly endeavored to thwart the Committee’s efforts to uncover the reality about Amazon’s enterprise practices,” the congressional letter says. “For this, it have to be held accountable.” The letter says it’s alerting the Justice Division to “probably prison conduct by Amazon and sure 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:

Apple Inc.,

Google mother or father

Alphabet Inc.

and

Fb,

now generally known as Meta Platforms Inc.

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The investigation produced an October 2020 report that criticized all 4 corporations and has fueled legislative proposals geared toward curbing their energy. However the lawmakers’ interplay with Amazon has been significantly contentious, in keeping with individuals concerned, and the brand new letter makes it the one one of many 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 information 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 informed members of the Home committee in testimony and written responses that it doesn’t use the information of particular person third-party sellers to tell the huge strains of its personal manufacturers, and doesn’t privilege its personal merchandise within the search outcomes on its platform.

A Journal investigation printed in April 2020, citing inside paperwork and interviews with former Amazon staffers, discovered the corporate’s workers routinely used such vendor knowledge to develop merchandise for its personal manufacturers. Subsequent reporting from Reuters, Politico and the Markup confirmed workers utilizing this knowledge and Amazon preferencing its personal merchandise in search outcomes. Lawmakers have stated in addition they gained related data by means of their very own interviews with individuals together with former Amazon workers.

When he appeared earlier than the Home Antitrust Committee in July 2020, in what was his first time testifying earlier than Congress, Amazon founder and government chairman

Jeff Bezos

stated he couldn’t assure that its coverage was all the time adopted. He agreed to share with members of the panel the outcomes of an inside investigation Amazon was conducting following the Journal article.

Committee members requested Amazon to supply proof to help its denials, together with a report from the investigation Mr. Bezos had referenced. In conferences with congressional employees and written testimony, Amazon or its legal professionals refused to supply the investigation report and different paperwork, in keeping with the letter and folks acquainted with the matter. As an alternative, the letter says, Amazon representatives offered broad denials with out supporting proof.

In October, committee members despatched a letter to Amazon Chief Govt

Andy Jassy

urging the corporate to supply “exculpatory proof” surrounding its private-label enterprise practices. Attorneys 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 data between lawyer and consumer, in keeping with individuals acquainted with the matter.

Amazon “has refused to show over enterprise paperwork or communications that will both corroborate its claims or right the report,” the letter says. “And it seems to have accomplished so to hide the reality about its use of third-party sellers’ knowledge to benefit its private-label enterprise and its preferencing of private-label merchandise in search outcomes—topics of the Committee’s investigation.”

The letter was signed by Home Judiciary Committee Chairman

Jerrold Nadler

(D., N.Y.), Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman

David Cicilline

(D., R.I.) and committee members Reps.

Ken Buck

(R., Colo.),

Matt Gaetz

(R., Fla.) and

Pramila Jayapal

(D., Wash.).

Write to Dana Mattioli at dana.mattioli@wsj.com

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Firm, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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