- A high-ranking lawmaker overseeing a congressional antitrust investigation into big tech companies owns stock in some of the companies being investigated, Business Insider has found.
- The CEOs of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google’s parent company Alphabet will give highly anticipated testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee Monday.
- Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the ranking member of the House Antitrust Subcommittee that will question the CEOs Monday, owns nearly $US100,000 in the four companies combined, according to his latest financial disclosures.
- It’s not illegal for lawmakers to own shares in individual companies, but the holdings could create conflicts of interest or undermine public trust in the investigation.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A lawmaker overseeing a sweeping antitrust investigation into Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google also own stock in one or more of those companies, creating potential conflicts of interest as the investigation nears a pivotal day of testimony Monday.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai of Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube, will testify Monday before the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers are approaching the end of a monthslong probe into whether the tech companies misused their market dominance to unfairly stifle competition.
But Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner – who is the ranking member of the House Antitrust Subcommittee – owns nearly $US100,000 in stock in those companies, according to his latest financial disclosure.
It’s not illegal for lawmakers to own shares in companies, even when an investigation into those companies is underway. But the holdings could create potential conflicts of interest or undermine public trust in the investigation.
Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican and the top GOP representative on the antitrust committee, owns more than $US98,000 of stock in the four companies combined. He owns $US26,658 in Apple, $US27,035 in Amazon, $US37,384 in Alphabet, and $US7,341 in Facebook, according to his latest financial disclosure.
A spokesperson for Sensenbrenner said the congressman’s shares are in a trust left to Sensenbrenner by his late father and that he does not actively manage the portfolio.
Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Steve Chabot, who are House Judiciary members but are not on the Antitrust Subcommittee, also reported in financial disclosures that they or their family have stock holdings in those companies. The broader House Judiciary does not have direct oversight of the investigation, but could oversee potential actions taken by the subcommittee once the investigation concludes.
Chabot, a Republican from Ohio, owns between $US15,000 and $US50,000 of stock in Facebook, according to his most recent disclosure.
Lofgren, a California Democrat, reported that her spouse owns between $US1,000 and $US15,000 of stock in Facebook, Apple, and Alphabet each, according to her most recent financial disclosure. She reported that some of those shares were sold in the past year, but did not specify the exact amount that was sold.
A spokesperson for Lofgren said her shares are in a rollover IRA managed by her husband and that she does not manage the holdings, and added that Lofgren does not expect to be able to question the CEOs at the hearing because she is not on the Antitrust Subcommittee.
A spokesperson for Chabot did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
These aren’t the first lawmakers to draw scrutiny for owning shares of companies they’re tasked with investigating. Stat News reported Monday that Reps. Joe Kennedy and Michael Burgess are members of a House committee that will question pharma companies about COVID-19 research, despite the fact that both representatives own shares of those companies.
The investigation is meant to dig into whether the four tech giants have accumulated so much power that it’s become impossible for smaller competitors to gain a foothold. The investigation is far-reaching and could be a pivotal moment in broader backlash against tech companies’ power.
Monday’s testimony is also hotly anticipated as the Justice Department is preparing a possible antitrust suit against Google, and both Amazon and Facebook are the subject of an ongoing Federal Trade Commission investigation.