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FTC launching probe into acquisitions made by Apple and other big tech companies

FTC launching probe into acquisitions made by Apple and other big tech companies


The Federal Trade Commission has announced that it plans to examine past acquisitions made by large technology companies including Apple. The FTC has issued orders to Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Google, and Facebook to provide additional information about acquisitions they’ve made in the past.

The FTC is seeking information that was not reported to the antitrust agencies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act. The investigation covers all transactions that each company completed between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019. That window includes Apple’s $3 billion acquisition of Beats that was completed in 2014, as well as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram.

The purpose of the investigation is to help the FTC “deepen its understanding” of the acquisition strategy of companies like Apple. The FTC will put a particular focus on looking for potential anticompetitive acquisitions made by the companies:

“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 notoriously makes quite a few acquisitions every year, particularly of smaller companies. Apple rarely discloses any details about those acquisitions, instead issuing a nondescript statement saying it “buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

This investigation from the FTC, however, will seemingly force Apple to provide more detail on all of the acquisitions it made from 2010 though 2019. In May of 2019, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Apple had acquired between 20 and 25 companies over the last six months.

You can read the FTC’s full announcement of this initiative here.

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