The FINANCIAL — Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google — will appear together before Congress for the first time to justify their business practices. The hearing is supposed to inform lawmakers’ efforts to rethink federal antitrust laws, perhaps making it easier for the federal government to probe and penalize tech giants and other large businesses. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CEOs are expected to testify remotely.
After lawmakers collected hundreds of hours of interviews and obtained more than 1.3 million documents about Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, their chief executives will testify before Congress to defend their powerful businesses. The captains of the New Gilded Age — Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google — will appear together before Congress for the first time to justify their business practices. Members of the House judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee have investigated the internet giants for more than a year on accusations that they have stifled rivals and harmed consumers, The New York Times reported.
President Donald Trump said he plans to follow the proceedings. Trump has tangled at times with Bezos, attacking the executive over negative coverage of him in the Bezos-owned Washington Post. Amazon has blamed Trump’s personal attacks for its failure to land a major government contract last year, and it’s suing over the lost deal. Trump has had somewhat warmer relationships with Zuckerberg, whom he has hosted for a White House dinner, and with Cook, whom he once called “Tim Apple.” But Trump’s Justice Department is also reportedly preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Pichai’s company, according to NBC News.
President Trump tweeted on twitter: “If Congress doesn’t bring fairness to Big Tech, which they should have done years ago, I will do it myself with Executive Orders. In Washington, it has been ALL TALK and NO ACTION for years, and the people of our Country are sick and tired of it.” At issue in the hearing is the subcommittee’s “ongoing investigation of competition in the digital marketplace.” All of the companies have remarkable influence over their markets, and each is reportedly facing a probe by the Justice Department or a coalition of state attorneys general.
The Covid pandemic has put this into sharp focus. Where other companies have struggled, Big Tech companies have thrived. Together they are now worth $5tn dollars. It’s led to accusations that – just like the banks – they are simply too big to fail. The number of complaints levelled at these companies are so numerous they are too many to name individually here. The general theme is that these companies don’t just run services – they own the internet’s utilities. The charge is that they use that commanding position unfairly at the expense of others, BBC wrote.
The hearing is supposed to inform lawmakers’ efforts to rethink federal antitrust laws, perhaps making it easier for the federal government to probe and penalize tech giants and other large businesses. A lawsuit against Google, in particular, could come as soon as this summer. Lawmakers will conduct the hearing over videoconferencing software because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, allowing the tech executives to testify from the West Coast, while some members of Congress attend the hearing in person, as reported by The Washington Post.
Led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Republicans on the committee have also pushed for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify at the hearing, although the attempt appears to have been unsuccessful, and Dorsey is unlikely to appear. The hearing was originally set to take place on Monday, July 27th, but it was rescheduled after the death of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a longtime civil rights leader who was lying in state at the US Capitol during the originally scheduled time. The antitrust proceedings were postponed by 48 hours to allow members of Congress to pay their respects, with the new date announced over the weekend., The Verge wrote.
Earlier this month, The General Court of the European Union issued its judgment in the Apple State Aid case annulling the European Commission Decision. In 2016 The European Commission concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to €13 billion to Apple and it was illegal under EU state aid rules. The Irish government welcomed judgement by the General Court of the European Union and said that the correct amount of Irish tax was charged and that Ireland provided no State aid to Apple. Read more.