Five U.S. congressmen, both Democrats and Republicans, sent a letter Monday to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, giving him a “last chance” to clarify whether his predecessor in office and founder of the company, Jeff Bezos, lied under oath.
In their letter, the congressmen point to apparent contradictions between the testimony given by several senior executives and by Bezos himself in his statements before the House of Representatives and the information published in recent months by several media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal.
Bezos and Amazon executives were called to testify before the House Antitrust subcommittee on several occasions in 2019 and 2020, and always denied that the company was involved in anti-competitive practices.
According to the congressmen’s letter, the information that appeared in the press directly contradicts the testimony that Bezos and the other executives gave under oath.
“At best, these publications confirm that Amazon representatives purposely misled the committee. At worst, they demonstrate that Congress was lied to in what could be a violation of federal criminal law,” they said in the letter.
Faced with this situation, the congressmen say they are giving a “last chance” to the company to present “exculpatory evidence” to corroborate the testimony given by Bezos and the executives, and threaten to refer the matter to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation.
The alleged practices about which the executives would have misled or lied to Congress are the use of third-party data (i.e., sellers who have their products on Amazon, but do not work for the company) to create competitors that are owned by Amazon.
Thus, for example, Amazon would be using third-party information about which products are liked more or less, which audience is most interested, what is the best selling price, what features are most valued by consumers, etc. to create and launch their own products that would then compete with the originals.
Bezos and company executives insisted on several occasions before Congress that this is not something that Amazon does, but media reports suggest that it would be a common practice in the company.
After the letter with the ultimatum was sent to the company, it issued a statement in which it denied that its executives had lied to Congress and indicated that its internal policy prohibits using third-party data to develop its own products.
Bezos stepped down last July as CEO of the company he founded in 1994, making way for Jassy, although he remains the firm’s executive chairman.
The congressmen who signed the letter sent to Amazon are David Cicilline, Pramila Jayapal and Jerrold Nadler (Democrats) and Ken Buck and Matt Gaetz (Republicans).