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FTC to examine past acquisitions of big US tech companies


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Whenever Apple buys a startup not big enough to ping any regulatory radars, it has a standard statement that it gives to journalists requesting comment on the acquisition:

“Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans.” Now, however, Apple – along with Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft – is being asked by the US Federal Trade Commission to discuss quite a bit more about acquisitions made over the last decade.

The FTC has issued ‘special orders’ to the companies requiring them to provide information on “prior acquisitions not reported to the antitrust agencies” under current US regulations – the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act. That information will include “the terms, scope, structure, and purpose of transactions that each company consummated between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2019”.

This isn’t about taking action over those deals, but rather about possibly modifying the regulations going forward. “The orders will help the FTC deepen its understanding of large technology firms’ acquisition activity, including how these firms report their transactions to the federal antitrust agencies, and whether large tech companies are making potentially anticompetitive acquisitions of nascent or potential competitors that fall below HSR filing thresholds and therefore do not need to be reported to the antitrust agencies,” as the regulator put it.

Stuart Dredge

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