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Amazon Makes No Promises on Bezos Testimony


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Amazon responded to lawmakers on Friday who demanded that its chief executive, Jeff Bezos, testify as part of a congressional antitrust investigation.

The company told lawmakers in a letter that it would be happy to send someone. It never, however, mentions Mr. Bezos in the three-page letter, which was obtained by The New York Times.

Instead, the company said that it was “prepared to make the appropriate Amazon executive available to the Committee to address these important issues.”

By not promising an appearance by Mr. Bezos, Amazon’s response may escalate tensions with the Democrat leaders of the House Judiciary Committee who, along with some Republicans, requested Mr. Bezos’ testimony in a letter sent to the company on May 1. They have threatened to legally compel Mr. Bezos to appear before the panel if he does not agree to do so willingly.

“We appreciate the response,” Representative David Cicilline, the Rhode Island Democrat who is chairman of the panel’s antitrust subcommittee, said in a statement. “As we said in our letter, we expect Mr. Bezos to testify when called and to fully cooperate with this investigation.”

Should Mr. Bezos appear before the committee, he would probably face questions about accusations that the company abuses its market power, as well as issues like its treatment of warehouse workers and its impact on small businesses. Unlike most other top technology executives, Mr. Bezos has not testified before Congress.

“We also fully appreciate your interest in hearing from Amazon leaders regarding these issues and any other issue material to your investigation into competition in digital markets, including at any future hearing,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, said in the Friday letter.

The lawmakers had talked with the company before the formal letter was sent about arranging Mr. Bezos’ testimony, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The company has been resistant to the request, said the people, who spoke anonymously because the talks were private.

The Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee has been conducting an inquiry into possible antitrust abuses by Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple for months. It has heard from representatives of the companies and last year requested reams of documents from the firms, including Mr. Bezos’ communications.

Its tensions with Amazon have ratcheted up in recent weeks, after a Wall Street Journal report that suggested an Amazon lawyer had given a misleading answer to the committee at a hearing last year. Lawmakers have raised the prospect that they could refer the lawyer, Nate Sutton, for a possible criminal investigation.

In its letter on Friday, Amazon denied that Mr. Sutton had misled the panel.

“We disagree strongly with any suggestion that we have attempted to mislead the Committee or not been cooperative with the investigation,” the company wrote.

www.nytimes.com 2020-05-15 23:36:36

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