FTC Orders Five Big Tech Companies to Disclose Details on Smaller Acquisitions

As part of its antitrust probe into large technology firms, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it ordered five companies — Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (parent company of Google), Facebook and Microsoft — to furnish detailed information about acquisitions they were not previously required to report to U.S. antitrust regulators.

The FTC said it issued the orders under a provision of U.S. law that allows the agency “to conduct wide-ranging studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.” Per the FTC’s current requirements under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, companies must report acquisitions with a value of $90 million or more to the FTC and Justice Department (prior to April 2019, the threshold was $50 million).

The information will help the FTC determine “whether large tech companies are making potentially anticompetitive acquisitions of nascent or potential competitors,” the agency said in announcing the orders.

The FTC is demanding that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft provide information and documents “on the terms, scope, structure, and purpose of transactions” that each company closed between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2019.

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In addition, the commission’s orders to the five tech giants require them to provide information and documents on their “corporate acquisition strategies, voting and board appointment agreements, agreements to hire key personnel from other companies, and post-employment covenants not to compete.” The FTC also wants information about “post-acquisition product development and pricing, including whether and how acquired assets were integrated and how acquired data has been treated.”

Alphabet, for one, paid $1 billion for an unspecified number of small acquisitions in 2019, per SEC filings, as cited by Reuters.

In addition to the FTC’s probe into Big Tech, the Justice Department, the House Judiciary Committee and several state attorneys general are investigating potential anticompetitive behavior among large internet and technology companies.

The FTC vote to approve issuing the special orders to the five big tech companies was 5-0.

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