Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has agreed to make an unprecedented appearance on Capitol Hill this summer to answer questions before a House committee about an antitrust investigation into his e-commerce giant. Lawyers representing Amazon in the case and a company spokesperson confirmed the news to several outlets on Monday.
According to The New York Times, Amazon attorney Robert Kelner wrote in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the antitrust probe, that the company was “committed to cooperating with your inquiry and will make the appropriate executive available to testify. This includes making Jeff Bezos available to testify at a hearing with the other CEOs this summer.”
The promise is a major concession on Amazon’s side in the months-long battle over who should testify in the congressional hearing. The House Judiciary Committee first requested Bezos’ appearance in a letter to Amazon on May 1. Amazon replied two weeks later, with a vague promise to send an “appropriate Amazon executive” to Washington while notably omitting any mention of its CEO. Democratic leaders of the House Judiciary Committee were apparently unsatisfied, saying that they could legally compel Bezos to testify if he didn’t do so willingly.
It will be Bezos’ first time to be grilled by Washington lawmakers on Amazon’s business practice. Several of his peer “big tech” CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai and even Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, have all testified before Congress in recent years on issues ranging from user privacy to the spread of misinformation.
When it’s Bezos’ turn, the world’s richest man will likely face questions about Amazon’s monopolistic market power and how that might have harmed smaller competitors as well as its own employees.
The specific date for Bezos’ hearing is yet to be determined. In Sunday’s letter, Kelner said the Amazon CEO’s availability will depend on first “resolving a number of questions regarding timing, format, and outstanding document production issues, all necessarily framed by the extraordinary demands of the global pandemic.”
The “document production issues” refer to a set of company documents the House committee has asked Amazon to prepare for the hearing. Amazon has resisted fulfilling these requests, citing concerns of possible leakage of sensitive business information.
“Amazon remains deeply concerned that you cannot assure that the most sensitive corporate documents reflecting business strategy and other competitively sensitive information would be withheld from its many competitors,” Kelner wrote in Sunday’s letter.