This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed a recent request from Amazon (you can read it in full below), with the internet retailer’s requests to put limits on the agency’s investigation of its business practices.
According to attorneys representing Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, former CEO Jeff Bezos and several other employees, the overly “taxing” investigation involved meeting civil investigation requirements (CIDs), which Bloomberg describes as similar to subpoenas, to 20 Amazon employees at their home. However, much like Elon Musk’s ongoing bickering with the SEC, the 49-page document comes into its own, claiming that individual FTC CIDs requesting testimony from Bezos and Jassy served only to harass them:
Mr. Bezos and Mr. Jassy further request that the individual CIDs issued to them in this case be destroyed or restricted. The staff’s requirement that Mr. Bezos and Mr. Jassy testify at an IH (Individual Hearing) on an open list of topics about which they have no unique knowledge is extremely unreasonable, extremely burdensome and intended to serve no purpose other than to harass Amazon’s top executives and disrupt business operations.
The document, filed on Aug. 5, confirms details of questions that we’ve generally been rumored to have heard, as the FTC has filed CIDs for information about Amazon Prime and other programs. They write that this round of investigations began with a request for details of the Amazon Prime sign-up and cancellation process in April 2021 and has gone downhill since then, with a June 2022 CID for five additional non-Prime subscriptions.
The June 2022 CID is unworkable and unfair, reflecting less of a responsible attempt to gather the facts about a variety of long-standing and highly popular subscription programs than a unilateral attempt to force Amazon to meet impossible-to-meet demands. The June 2022 CID goes beyond Prime’s sign-up and cancellation and includes at least five additional subscription programs, each with their own unique facts, history, and personnel. June 2022 CID’ goes beyond Prime signup and cancellation to land at least five additional subscription programs, each with their own unique facts, history, and personnel. For five weeks, the CID demands answers to multiple complex interrogations and IH statements on extraordinarily broad topics for which no witness can be responsibly prepared to give full and accurate testimony. In addition, many of the requests are argumentative and vague, exacerbating the inability to respond within the required timeframe.
Now Amazon says FTC officials are pursuing three days of witness statements, with “one on Amazon Prime cancellation, one on Amazon Prime enrollment, and one on “other topics,” detailing at least four additional programs operated by different Amazon services. corporate units and one operated by a third party.” Exactly what programs those are seems unclear, but Amazon’s purchase of MGM, as well as the recent acquisitions of One Medical and iRobot, likely mean there are more than a few potential antitrust issues for investigators to consider.
It’s normal for companies to go against these kinds of discovery requests, but given the high stakes in the FTC’s investigation, this particular battle is at stake for both Amazon and federal regulators. In a similar vein, Amazon filed a backlash against FTC head Lina Khan last year that went nowhere — but maybe it will be different this time.