For more than a year, the federal government has surrounded Big Tech and its business practices. On Wednesday, members of the House of Representatives will unfold evidence their staff has found and put direct pressure on some of the world’s top executives.
Four of the most prominent CEOs of technology: Sundar Pichai, of the parent company of Google Alphabet Inc. GOOGL,
, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com Inc. AMZN,
, Tim Cook of Apple Inc. AAPL,
and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Inc. FB,
– They are programmed to answer legislators’ questions about their business practices and their enormous influence on the economy and daily life of Americans. (The hearing, originally scheduled for Monday, was delayed until Wednesday due to plans for the late Representative John Lewis to remain in the state on the United States Capitol.)
Appearing via video links, the quartet, whose companies have a collective value of $ 5 billion, should expect queries and withering statements from the House Judiciary Antimonopoly Subcommittee as investigations of its business practices by the party deepen. from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Attendees of the high-ranking subcommittee made a call with members of the media on Thursday and described their planned approach.
Armed with 1.3 million documents collected from companies and third-party sources, the subcommittee will be “laser focused” on the competition and whether current law can adequately control its power, attendees said. A line of questions they mentioned will deal with the mountains of personal data collected and used by companies to build their formidable market share. A report based on CEO testimony is due later this year, as late as the summer.
“Since last June, the Subcommittee has been investigating the mastery of a small number of digital platforms and the adequacy of existing antitrust laws and their enforcement. Given the central role these corporations play in the lives of the American people, it is critical that their CEOs be forthcoming. As we’ve said from the beginning, your testimony is essential for us to complete this investigation, “said Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler, DN.Y., and Chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, David Cicilline, DR.I., in a joint statement on Saturday.
Amazon declined to comment. Facebook, Apple and Alphabet did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Bezos and his corporate brothers are under the regulatory microscope for the considerable influence they have in multiple markets, from shopping (through Amazon and Google), to entertainment (Apple and Google’s YouTube), news and tutorials (Google search), and socializing (Facebook). The strong rise of Big Tech, which is fueling a resurgent stock market despite a deepening pandemic, underscores the enduring power of the industry as consumption increases in a work-from-home economy.
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“It will not be a condemnation as much as part of an ongoing investigation,” said Matt Stoller, research director for the United States Economic Liberties Project and author of “Goliath: Hundred Years’ War between monopoly power and democracy. “He told MarketWatch in an interview telephone. “Committee members are trying to understand their business models, where their income comes from and how they operate.”
Facing Wednesday’s virtual showdown, the four companies have different and different antitrust issues, and each is taking steps to minimize their influence. Last week, Apple released a third-party economic investigation showing that the fees it collects from developers are in line with those charged by other digital platforms, a possible preview of Cook’s testimony.
The company’s app store, which raises about $ 15 billion in annual revenue according to analysts, gets a 30% cut in sales and strongly influences the way developers market and price apps. Because it is the only app store available on more than 900 iPhones worldwide, it collects roughly double the sales of its largest rival, Google Play Store. Apple says it collects a portion of sales from a small percentage of the nearly 2 million apps available in the store, which doesn’t make it a monopoly.
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Zuckerberg’s case may depend on his fierce competition, particularly with Alphabet and Amazon for advertising, and Twitter Inc. TWTR,
, Snap Inc. SNAP,
and TikTok on social networks. Facebook has consistently called for government regulation in areas where it has been criticized: electoral integrity, privacy, and harmful content.
Meanwhile, Bezos is expected to explain how small sellers on his third-party marketplace platform continue to “thrive despite Amazon competition” and the online shopping options available to consumers. Their argument, in essence, is that the pandemic has fueled e-commerce in general, including that of large retail rivals such as Walmart Inc. WMT,
, according to a Reuters report.
It is unclear what Alphabet will say, although it may face the fiercest reception. The company, which reportedly hopes to avoid an EU antitrust investigation into its planned $ 2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit Inc. FIT,
By promising that he will not use Fitbit’s health data to help him target ads, the Justice Department could sue him in the coming months for alleged abuse of power in the advertising technology and search products market. The government is also examining allegations that Google abused its domain in search, according to published reports.
“Excessive regulatory scrutiny” remains a constant source of anxiety for Wall Street with Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook, which are expected to be the targets of “political football” between now and the November elections, the Wedbush analyst said. Securities Dan Ives in a statement. research note on Thursday.
Ultimately, what conclusions federal lawmakers draw from Wednesday’s hearing could be summed up in one simple question, monopoly expert Stoller said.
“It really comes down to this: How do you get super powerful without responding to anyone?” he said.