DOJ needs 'credible evidence' of antitrust violations to investigate Amazon, Delrahim says

7 September 2018 4:59pm

6 September 2018. By Leah Nylen and Jenna Ebersole.

The US Department of Justice would only open an antitrust investigation into Amazon if it receives "credible evidence of a violation," the top antitrust official said, rejecting calls to look into the online retailer days after it become a $1 trillion company.

“You don’t just go after companies,” Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim said at a conference* in New York. “There should be credible evidence of a violation of the law. ...Just because somebody is big does not mean they have violated the laws nor should we in any way just [target them] just because they’ve succeeded.”

Delrahim’s comments came in response to a question about whether the DOJ was planning to investigate Amazon, which on Tuesday reached a market cap of $1 trillion, becoming the second-ever publicly traded company — after Apple — to achieve that feat.

Delrahim quoted a 1940 speech by Robert H. Jackson, who headed the DOJ’s antitrust division in the 1930s before becoming attorney general and later a Supreme Court justice.

“‘It’s really important for us as law enforcement agencies to look and pick cases based on conduct, not based on the subject,’” Delrahim quoted Jackson as saying. “It’s just as important here or if its a violation of a computer crime or a violation of a drug law.”

Delrahim said the antitrust division isn’t afraid to bring tough cases when warranted.

“We have not been shy at the Justice Department about bringing a case against powerful political interests like Microsoft or even more powerful political interests like AT&T. If there is credible evidence**, I have invited folks to bring it to us,” he said.

On the sidelines of the conference, Delrahim said he supported a move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to hold a meeting with state attorneys general who have competition and other concerns about major tech companies such as Google and Amazon. Sessions and the state AGs are planning to meet on Sept. 25. Delrahim declined to say which state attorneys general have been invited to the meeting, referring questions to the attorney general’s office.

*45th Annual Conference on International Antitrust Law and Policy. Fordham University School of Law. New York. Sept. 5-7, 2018.

** Corrected on Sept. 6, 2018 at 19:08 GMT: The original version of this article said that Delrahim was referring specifically to Amazon.

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