FTC Examining Past Acquisitions by Apple and Other Tech Companies in Ongoing Antitrust Investigation
The Federal Trade Commission today announced that it has issued Special Orders to Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Google parent company Alphabet requiring them to report all prior acquisitions not previously reported.
In the United States, companies are required to report acquisitions over a certain value to the FTC under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act, while acquisitions under the value threshold do not need to be reported. The FTC is asking for details on all smaller acquisitions that it did not previously know about. The HSR threshold in 2020 is $94 million, but it is a number that is adjusted by the FTC each year and would have been lower in past years.
The FTC says that it wants the companies to provide information and documents on the "terms, scope, structure, and purpose of transactions" that took place from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2019 and were not reported under the HSR Act. The FTC wants to learn whether large tech companies are making anticompetitive acquisitions of nascent or potential competitors in deals small enough to go unreported to antitrust agencies.
"Digital technology companies are a big part of the economy and our daily lives," said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. "This initiative will enable the Commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition. This will help us continue to keep tech markets open and competitive, for the benefit of consumers."
Apple and other tech companies will also need to provide the FTC with documents on corporate acquisition strategies, voting and board appointment agreements, agreements to hire key personnel from other companies, and post-employment non-compete agreements. Each company will be asked to offer information on post-acquisition product development and pricing, including whether and how acquired assets were integrated and how acquired data has been treated.
Tech companies like Apple often make many acquisitions per year, and Apple in particular buys a lot of smaller companies. Apple does not provide details on purchase prices, though, so it is unclear how many acquisitions have previously not been reported to the FTC.