|Delayed - 09/30 04:00:00 pm|
Inside Big Tech: Pulling back the curtain with 'hot' email
|08/05/2020 | 12:35pm|
“By Mr. Zuckerberg’s own admission and by the documents we have from the time,
And then the closing argument: “This is exactly the type of anti-competitive acquisition that the antitrust laws were designed to prevent. This should never have happened in the first place.”
The hearing empowered the Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, led by Rep.
In doing so, lawmakers provided a rare glimpse inside the likely lines of inquiry being pursued by the
Lawmakers played back words from the documents during last week's hearing, which marked the first time that Zuckerberg,
Sprinkled with colorful language from company executives like “digital land grab,” “big video brains” and “kicking butt,” the emails and chat logs, all marked “highly confidential," grabbed attention. Looking ahead, the “hot documents” don’t by themselves guarantee successful legal action by regulators, legal experts say. But they can be very useful.
“It sounds inflammatory but if you really think about it, it’s kind of what you want competitors to be thinking,” says
Still, he said, such documents can help competitors that are suing a dominant company, and “can make the difference sometimes in whether you get to a jury.”
Hot documents can often be spun either way in antitrust cases. They can be held up by prosecutors or regulators as “smoking gun” evidence of mobster-style tactics to illegally squash competition. But company attorneys may contend they show the sort of vigorous competitive spirit that’s prized in top executives. The companies may accuse prosecutors of pulling a few swaggering emails out of context.
It’s not illegal in itself for a company to be a monopoly. But it can be a violation of antitrust law for a company at the top of the heap to use its power to kick competitors off the hill.
For example, there’s the matter of “predatory pricing.” For a company to set prices below its costs doesn’t violate antitrust law unless it’s part of a strategy to eliminate competitors and then possibly raise its prices over the long term. Below-cost pricing is permissible if it’s done only to maintain or gain market share.
Bezos was questioned at the hearing about
"We need to match pricing on these guys no matter what the cost,” the executive wrote in 2009.
“What I remember is that we matched competitor prices. And I believe we followed Diapers.com,” he said. “What I can tell you is that the idea of using diapers and products like that to attract new customers ... is a very traditional idea.”
Internal documents can be useful to investigators for insight into the likely effect of an acquisition or other company action, said
That’s of interest because federal regulators are delving into the four huge companies’ acquisitions of hundreds of smaller firms, dating back to 2010. The head of the
In questioning, Nadler tried to pin him down, without getting yes or no answers. Did he mean the threat was that users might switch from
Zuckerberg eventually acknowledged that Instagram was a competitor in mobile photo-sharing and camera apps. “There were a lot of others at the time,” he added.
Zuckerberg told Facebook’s chief financial officer in a
In a message sent a short while later, he followed up with a clarification: “I didn’t mean to imply that we’d be buying them to prevent them from competing with us in any way.”
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