The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) made public a recent filing from Amazon, which shows that Amazon asked the agency to limit its investigation of its business practices.
Lawyers for Amazon, CEO Andy Jassy, former CEO Jeff Bezos, and a few other employees say that the “burdensome” investigation included sending civil investigative demands (CIDs), which Bloomberg says are like subpoenas, to the homes of 20 Amazon employees. But, like Elon Musk’s ongoing fight with the SEC, the 49-page document hits its stride when it says that the FTC’s CIDs asking Bezos and Jassy to testify were only meant to harass them.
Mr. Bezos and Mr. Jassy have also asked for the Individual CIDs that were given to them, in this case, to be thrown out or limited. Staff’s demand that Mr. Bezos and Mr. Jassy testify at an IH (individual hearing) on an open-ended list of topics about which they have no special knowledge is completely unreasonable, overly burdensome, and designed to do nothing but harass Amazon’s top executives and mess up its business operations.
An Overview of FTC’s CIDs
The document sent on August 5th confirms details about questions about Amazon Prime and other programs that have been the subject of rumors. The FTC sent CIDs asking for information on Amazon Prime and other programs. They write that this round of questions started in April 2021 with a request for information about how to sign up for and cancel Amazon Prime. Since then, things have moved along in fits and starts, with a CID in June 2022 covering five more subscription plans that aren’t Prime.
Amazon officials claim that the CID isn’t a serious attempt to discover more about long-running and very popular subscription programs but rather a one-sided attempt to force Amazon to meet impossible-to-meet demands. The CID for June 2022 goes beyond signing up for and canceling Prime to include at least five more subscription programs, each with its facts, history, and people. Over five weeks ago, the CID asked for answers to many complicated interrogatories and IH testimony on topics that are so broad that no witness could be prepared to give full and accurate testimony. Also, many requests are argumentative and unclear, making it even harder to respond in the time allowed.
Amazon & FTC’s Next Action
Now, Amazon says that FTC staff are trying to get three days of testimony: “one on Amazon Prime cancellation, one on Amazon Prime enrollment, and one on ‘other topics,’ which includes details about at least four more programs run by different Amazon business units and one run by a third party.” It’s unclear what these programs are, but Amazon’s purchase of MGM and its recent purchases of One Medical and iRobot likely mean that there are more than a few possible antitrust issues for investigators to look into.
Companies usually fight this kind of discovery request, but because the FTC’s investigation is so important, both Amazon and federal regulators have a lot to lose in this fight. Similarly, Amazon sent a recusal motion for FTC head Lina Khan last year, but nothing came of it. Maybe this time, though, things will go differently.
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