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Congressional Committee Refers Amazon to DOJ for Possible Violation of Federal Law

  Members of the House Judiciary Committee want the Department of Justice to investigate what they claim is “potentially criminal conduct by...

 Members of the House Judiciary Committee want the Department of Justice to investigate what they claim is “potentially criminal conduct by Amazon and certain of its executives.”

The House panel conducted an investigation into competition in digital markets that concluded in 2020.

The investigation was designed to probe claims that Amazon used data from third-party sellers to develop its own products and whether Amazon gave its own products priority in searches, according to the New York Post.

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, who chairs the committee, as well as Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Democratic Rep. Pramila Jaypal of Washington issued a joint statement on their call for Amazon to be punished,

“Throughout the investigation and in follow-up inquiries, senior executives at Amazon engaged in a pattern and practice of misleading behavior before the Committee. The Committee extended multiple opportunities for Amazon to clarify these misconceptions, yet executives continued to thwart our efforts to uncover the truth about their business practices. Amazon and its executives must be held accountable for this behavior,” the statement said.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland with 24 pages of supporting evidence to bolster their claim that Amazon deserves to be punished for impeding the efforts of Congress to investigate the company’s practices.

“During that investigation, and in follow-up inquiries, Amazon engaged in a pattern and practice of misleading conduct that suggests it was ‘acting with an improper purpose’ ‘to influence, obstruct, or impede’ the Committee’s investigation and inquiries,” the letter said.

“In its first appearance before the Committee during the investigation, Amazon lied through a senior executive’s sworn testimony that Amazon did not use any of the troves of data it had collected on its third-party sellers to compete with them. But credible investigative reporting showed otherwise,” the letter said, referring to reporting by the Wall Street Journal.

The letter said that throughout its investigation “Amazon attempted to cover up its lie by offering ever-shifting explanations of what it called its ‘Seller Data Protection Policy,’” and said that  “Amazon’s representations were misleading.”

The letter said that even after Amazon was told the committee found holes in its testimony, the giant stuck to its story.

“After Amazon was caught in a lie and repeated misrepresentations, it stonewalled the Committee’s efforts to uncover the truth. The Committee gave Amazon a final opportunity to provide evidence either correcting the record or corroborating the representations it had made to the Committee under oath and in written statements. Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity to provide clarity, however, Amazon offered conclusory denials of adverse facts.”

“Without producing any evidence to the contrary, Amazon has left standing what appear to be false and misleading statements to the Committee,” the letter said.

“It has refused to turn over business documents or communications that would either corroborate its claims or correct the record. And it appears to have done so to conceal the truth about its use of third-party sellers’ data to advantage its private-label business and its preferencing of private-label products in search results—subjects of the Committee’s investigation.”

“As a result, we have no choice but to refer this matter to the Department of Justice to investigate whether Amazon and its executives obstructed Congress in violation of applicable federal law,” the letter said.

The referral is not an indictment and is essentially a request that the Department of Justice examine Amazon’s conduct for possible violations.

An Amazon spokesperson pushed back on the accusation.

“There’s no factual basis for this, as demonstrated in the huge volume of information we’ve provided over several years of good faith cooperation with this investigation,” the spokesperson said in a statement, according to The Hill

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