Amid growing calls for breaking down large technology companies, the US Federal Trade Commission is set to examine past acquisitions by five tech giants -- Alphabet Inc. (including Google), Amazon.com, Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook, Inc., and Microsoft Corp.
The FTC on Tuesday said it issued special orders to these five companies, requiring them to provide information about prior acquisitions not reported to the antitrust agencies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act.
The orders require to provide information and documents on the terms, scope, structure, and purpose of transactions that each company consummated between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019.
The Commission said it wanted to conduct wide-ranging studies of these acquisitions that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.
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.
"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," Simons added.
The special orders require each recipient to identify acquisitions that were not reported to the FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice under the HSR Act, and to provide information similar to that requested on the HSR notification and report form.
The orders also require companies to provide information and documents on their corporate acquisition strategies, voting and board appointment agreements, agreements to hire key personnel from other companies, and post-employment covenants not to compete.
The orders also ask for information related to post-acquisition product development and pricing, including whether and how acquired assets were integrated and how acquired data has been treated.