Amazon Under Investigation by the SEC

Amazon Under Investigation by the SEC

( – Amazon hasn’t had a very good week. On Friday, April 1, warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York, voted to unionize despite company objections. The outcome wasn’t even close. Of the 8,300 workers qualified to vote, 2,654 voted to unionize, and 2,131 voted against the idea. The union will likely force Amazon to create a kinder work environment and better pay.

As bad as that news may be for the world’s largest e-commerce company, it gets worse. On Wednesday, April 6, The Wall Street Journal reported the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating the massive company to learn how it handles employee disclosures of third-party sellers’ data. For several years, the media and the government scrutinized the company for allegedly boosting its own white-label products over other sellers’.

SEC Investigation Heats Up

The Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC’s enforcement division requested Amazon provide emails and other communications from senior company officials. The government alleges Amazon knocks off third-party sellers on its website in favor of its own, using its massive database to leverage data at the expense of other sellers.

Amazon denies the allegation. Yet, in 2020, the Wall Street Journal conducted its own investigation. Former Amazon employees told journalists that the company routinely used seller data from third-party sellers to develop products under its brand. As a result of the story, Amazon opened an investigation of its private-label division. It refuses to disclose the outcome or provide a public report to a congressional committee investigating the company.

If the story sounds vaguely familiar, it might be because the government accused Google of using its internal data to manipulate search results favoring its business as well. In October 2020, the US Justice Department sued Google, alleging the company violated antitrust laws by failing to restore search and search advertising competition.

Congress Investigates Amazon

In March, the House Judiciary subcommittee investigating antitrust matters referred Amazon and top officials to the Department of Justice. The committee said Amazon obstructed Congress and refused to cooperate in the committee’s investigation into how Amazon conducts its private-label business.

After 16 months of looking into Amazon and other large tech companies, the subcommittee proposed numerous bills to rein in Big Tech. One proposal would make it illegal for Amazon to give its products preferences over its competitors or use sellers’ nonpublic data to create products and compete with them on Amazon’s website.

Stay tuned. While this is a slow-moving story, the SEC, Congress, and the federal courts could reshape parts of Amazon’s business — hopefully making shopping better for consumers.

Copyright 2022,