Seek info from FTC, DOJ

Senate Democrats, including a couple of presidential candidates, have called on both the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department to give out info on "possible" antitrust investigations into Amazon and Facebook (FTC), Google and Apple (Justice).

That came in letters to both from Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), ranking member of the Senate Antiturst Subcommittee; Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).

Related: Sen. Blumenthal Says FTC Should Investigate Google

They want confirmation of the existence of the investigations and then what the scope of them are. They concede that neither the FTC nor Justice usually comment on ongoing investigations, even to say whether or not they are being conducted. But the senators suggests those agencies should break with tradition given the public's interest and the leaks that have already occurred.

There have been various press reports about investigations, but no official confirmations.

"Over the years, we have heard numerous complaints about potential anticompetitive conduct by large technology firms, and we have held hearings that have explored these issues,” they wrote. “When we saw the recent press reports of potential U.S. investigations into these matters, we were encouraged, but also somewhat troubled that such inquiries were not already well underway. But given the silence of the FTC and the Justice Department, the truth is that we still do not know if these investigations have actually been initiated and neither do the American people.”

Washington's interest in the edge has been honed by Russian election meddling, privacy breaches, info sharing, hate speech, allegations of censorship and more. Klobuchar has made no secret of her interest in getting more info on investigations.

She teamed up with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on a letter to the FTC back in April asking it to make its investigation into Google and others public.

The text of both of Friday's letters (June 21) are reprinted below:

The Honorable Joseph Simons

Chairman

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington, D.C. 20580

Dear Chairman Simons:

The last several weeks have seen numerous news articles concerning potential federal antitrust investigations into major American technology firms, including possible Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigations into Amazon.com, Inc. (Amazon) and Facebook, Inc. (Facebook) and Justice Department investigations of Google and Apple. Yet neither agency has provided comment on or corroboration of any of these reports. We write to request that the FTC provide basic disclosures regarding the existence of FTC antitrust investigations into Amazon and Facebook to Congress and the American public.

We have previously highlighted the importance of antitrust enforcement in connection with online digital platforms, which occupy an influential and growing sector of our economy. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google touch the daily lives of millions of Americans, connecting friends and family, entertaining us, delivering news and information, and helping us buy and sell the products we need. But the benefits that these companies deliver to consumers do not put them outside of the reach of our antitrust laws.

Over the years, we have heard numerous complaints about potential anticompetitive conduct by large technology firms, and we have held hearings that have explored these issues. Many of us have called on both the FTC and the Justice Department to investigate potential anticompetitive activity in these markets, particularly following the significant enforcement actions taken by foreign competition enforcers against these same companies. When we saw the recent press reports of potential U.S. investigations into these matters, we were encouraged, but also somewhat troubled that such inquiries were not already well underway. But given the silence of the FTC and the Justice Department, the truth is that we still do not know if these investigations have actually been initiated and neither do the American people.

We understand that, under its internal policies, the FTC typically refrains from commenting on nonpublic investigations, but these circumstances are far from typical. The significant public interest in and allegations surrounding the business conduct of Big Tech and the leaks concerning the clearance process relating to potential investigations of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have made these matters highly unusual. Accordingly, we respectfully request answers to the following questions:

Does the FTC currently have an open nonmerger, antitrust investigation into the conduct of Amazon or any of its subsidiaries? If so, describe the nature and general scope of any such investigations into Amazon or any of its subsidiaries.

Will the FTC commit to issuing a public statement concerning the general findings and outcome of any nonmerger, antitrust investigation into the conduct of Amazon or any of its subsidiaries

Does the FTC currently have an open nonmerger, antitrust investigation into the conduct of Facebook or any of its subsidiaries? If so, describe the nature and general scope of any such investigations into Facebook or any of its subsidiaries.

Will the FTC commit to issuing a public statement concerning the general findings and outcome of any nonmerger, antitrust investigation into the conduct of Facebook or any of its subsidiaries?

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. We look forward to your response and to hearing you discuss the FTC’s ongoing enforcement efforts at the July 23 hearing before the Antitrust Subcommittee.

The Honorable Makan Delrahim

Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Assistant Attorney General Delrahim

The last several weeks have seen numerous news articles concerning potential federal antitrust investigations into major American technology firms, including possible Justice Department, Antitrust Division investigations of Alphabet Inc. (Google) and Apple Inc. (Apple) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigations into Amazon and Facebook. Yet neither agency has provided comment on or corroboration of any of these reports. We write to request that the Antitrust Division provide basic disclosures regarding the existence of Justice Department antitrust investigations into Google and Apple to Congress and the American public.

We have previously highlighted the importance of antitrust enforcement in connection with online digital platforms, which occupy an influential and growing sector of our economy. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google touch the daily lives of millions of Americans, connecting friends and family, entertaining us, delivering news and information, and helping us buy and sell the products we need. But the benefits that these companies deliver to consumers do not put them outside of the reach of our antitrust laws.

Over the years, we have heard numerous complaints about potential anticompetitive conduct by large technology firms, and we have held hearings that have explored these issues. Many of us have called on both the FTC and the Justice Department to investigate potential anticompetitive activity in these markets, particularly following the significant enforcement actions taken by foreign competition enforcers against these same companies. When we saw the recent press reports of potential U.S. investigations into these matters, we were encouraged, but also somewhat troubled that such inquiries were not already well underway. But given the silence of the FTC and the Justice Department, the truth is that we still do not know if these investigations have actually been initiated and neither do the American people.

We understand that the Antitrust Division typically refrains from commenting on nonpublic investigations, but these circumstances are far from typical. The significant public interest in and allegations surrounding the business conduct of Big Tech and the leaks concerning the clearance process relating to potential investigations of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have made these matters highly unusual. Accordingly, we respectfully request answers to the following questions:

Does the Justice Department currently have an open nonmerger, antitrust investigation into the conduct of Google or any of its subsidiaries? If so, describe the nature and general scope of any such investigations into Google or any of its subsidiaries.

Will the Justice Department commit to issuing a public statement concerning the general findings and outcome of any nonmerger, antitrust investigation into the conduct of Google or any of its subsidiaries?

Does the Justice Department currently have an open nonmerger, antitrust investigation into the conduct of Apple or any of its subsidiaries? If so, describe the nature and general scope of any such investigations into Apple or any of its subsidiaries.

Will the Justice Department commit to issuing a public statement concerning the general findings and outcome of any nonmerger, antitrust investigation into the conduct of Apple or any of its subsidiaries?

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. We look forward to your response and to hearing you discuss the Antitrust Division’s ongoing enforcement efforts at the July 23 hearing before the Antitrust Subcommittee. 

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