Top tech executives will be asked to testify in U.S. probe

June 4, 2019

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leaders of big tech companies will be asked to testify as part of an investigation into whether the companies misuse their massive market power, the head of the U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee leading the probe said on Tuesday.

The comments came a day after sources said the U.S. executive branch is gearing up for a similar probe of Inc, Apple Inc, Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, setting up what could be an unprecedented, wide-ranging investigation of some of the world’s largest companies.

The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened its own investigation into competition in digital markets on Monday, with both Republicans and Democrats expressing concern about the power exercised by several of the world’s most valuable companies.

Representative David Cicilline said, “It will be necessary for some of the leaders of the technology companies to be part of this conversation.”

The Democrat added he was developing a witness list and that “I expect a number of them will actually testify before the committee or be interviewed as part of the investigation.”

Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook, speaking in an interview with CBS News that aired on Tuesday, denied the company is a monopoly, saying the iPhone maker controlled a moderate share of the market but was not too big, and disagreed with calls from some U.S. politicians that the company be broken up.

“With size, I think scrutiny is fair. I think we should be scrutinized,” he said. But, he added, “I don’t think anybody reasonable is gonna come to the conclusion that Apple’s a monopoly.”

Cook’s comments were broadcast the same day two app developers sued Apple over its App Store practices, saying the company took an unfair commission on sales of iPhone apps.

The claims center on the same Apple practices highlighted in a lawsuit brought by consumers, arguing that Apple’s practices have artificially inflated the price of software in the App Store.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, which enforce antitrust laws in the United States, have divided oversight over the four companies, two sources told Reuters on Monday, with Amazon and Facebook under the watch of the FTC, and Apple and Google under the Justice Department.

The probes could have financial implications for the companies. Brokerage Cowen cut its target price for Apple to $220 from $245 on Tuesday, citing antitrust enforcement concerns. Shares were trading up 2.7% at $178.00 in midday trade on Tuesday, as the broader market also rallied.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing by Chris Sanders; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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