Lawmakers are questioning whether or not high Amazon executives lied to Congress
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos
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Five members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy asking if the company’s top executives misled Congress or as part of an extensive investigation into the competitive practices of big tech companies lied under oath.
Representatives Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., David Cicilline, DR.I., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Pramila Jayapal, D-Calif., And Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Asked Amazon for “exonerating” Evidence “to corroborate earlier statements and statements made by then-CEO Jeff Bezos and other executives to the committee in 2019 and 2020. Legislators said Jassy must respond by November 1.
Legislators cited “recent credible coverage” from Reuters, The Markup, The Wall Street Journal and others about Amazon’s private label practices and its collection of third-party seller data that directly contradicts statements by Bezos and Amazon executives.
“This coverage confirms at best that the representatives of Amazon have misled the committee,” wrote the legislators. “At worst, it shows they may have lied to Congress in violation of federal criminal law.”
Legislature said it was also considering referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.
An Amazon spokesperson denied that the company and its executives misled the committee. The spokesman added that the company “has denied and corrected the records of the inaccurate media articles in question”.
The spokesman said Amazon has internal policies prohibiting the use of individual seller data to develop private label products and is not promoting private label products in search results.
The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into the competitive practices of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in 2019. As part of its investigation into Amazon, the committee looked at how the company used third-party data on its platform and whether it wrongly preferred its own products.
In a series of hearings during the investigation, Amazon executives defended the company’s business practices. Amazon’s Associate General Counsel, Nate Sutton, testified in July 2019 that Amazon did not use individual seller data to underpin its strategy, instead claiming that it used aggregated data that could provide a sense of a product category’s performance. After the hearing, Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky reiterated several allegations made by Sutton.
When he testified in July 2020, Bezos said Amazon has a policy protecting seller data from employee access and noted that it prohibits the use of individual seller information for the purpose of introducing private label products.
“If we should find that someone violates it, we would take action,” said Bezos at the time.
Journal coverage found that Amazon employees were using non-aggregated or easily identifiable third-party data to figure out which products to manufacture. Amazon executives also developed workarounds for Amazon’s internal restrictions on gaining access to individual seller data, as part of a practice known as “going over the fence,” the Journal reported. Amazon said at the time it believed the claims were incorrect.
Cicilline and other lawmakers previously questioned whether Sutton misled Congress during his testimony in 2019.
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