Business Insider’s Aaron Holmes reports that three of the lawmakers tasked with leading an antitrust investigation into the operations of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google own more than $100,000 in stocks of those tech firms — not the best way to run a probe.
In their coverage, Holmes noted that Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin owns more than $98,000 in stocks in all four companies combined; Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California has between $1,000 and $15,000 of stocks in Facebook, Apple, and Alphabet each, though she’s sold some of those shares recently; Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio holds between $15,000 and $50,000 of Facebook shares.
To be clear, it’s not illegal for lawmakers to own shares of the companies they’re investigating, but it could certainly lead to a perception of conflict of interest in this case.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai are set to testify before the House Judiciary Antitrust Committee on Monday, July 27. However, Axios noted that this could be postponed until August 3 to allow Washington to mourn the late civil rights leader John Lewis, who died earlier this week.
The investigation is looking to uncover whether these tech giants are unfairly using their massive influence in their respective markets to stifle competition from smaller rivals. They’ve been under the scanner of the United States Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee since last July, each for different reasons:
- Amazon may have been ranking its own products higher than those of other brands in its massive online stores.
- Apple is believed to rank its own apps and services higher in search results for its App Store, and its revenue sharing model with developers that offer in-app purchases is also being scrutinized. Spotify made a big noise about it last year.
- Facebook is under fire for attempting to maintain its lead in the social networking space by acquiring competitors, and using the capabilities of Onavo, a data analysis firm it bought in 2013, to bolster its position.
- Google will be grilled over the company’s practices of directing users of its search engine to results from its own products, like Maps and Flights.
The tech world at large will have eyes on this investigation, as the outcome could have major implications for the future of how these companies operate with their partners and rivals.