House committee asks Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Alphabet to turn over documents in antitrust probe

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Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) questions former Special Counsel Robert Mueller as he testifies about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the Rayburn House Office Building July 24, 2019 in Washington, DC.
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Leaders of the House Judiciary Committee requested documents from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google parent company Alphabet, the committee announced Friday.

Among other information, the committee requested executives’ emails related to competition matters and documents provided to U.S. and international regulators from the past 10 years related to the Clayton Act, which deals with reviewing potentially anticompetitive mergers, according to a press release. 

The request shows the committee is ramping up an antitrust review as federal regulators and attorneys general from 50 states and territories are prepping their own probes. In letters to chief executives of the four companies, the bipartisan group of committee leaders said the investigation will focus on three elements. The first is “competition problems in digital markets,” followed by “whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct online” and finally, whether current laws and enforcement can effectively deal with these issues.

Tech executives testified in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust in July, but the subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said lawmakers still need more information.

“I appreciate the willingness of certain tech companies to come before our committee and answer questions,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement. “However, we still need more information about their business practices at this fact-finding stage of this investigation.”

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Doug Collins, R-GA, said the committee is not approaching the probe “with an agenda.”

“The important part is, what we see is, this is not, from my position, as an attack,” Collins said. “This is questioning of normal oversight into the marketplace to say, ‘what is going on, and [are] our antitrust laws working or is there something we need to look at?’”

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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