The FTC has just announced an antitrust investigation into Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google (as well as parent company Alphabet) and Microsoft. The consumer protection agency is requiring that all companies provide information about past acquisitions they've made but "not reported to the antitrust agencies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act."
The HSR act is a set of amendments made to US antitrust laws in 1976 that requires companies to not complete mergers and acquisitions without making detailed filings with the FTC and Department of Justice; both agencies must determine that those moves aren't anti-competitive. But not all mergers or acquisitions are subject to the HSR Act, so the FTC is essentially asking these companies to open their books on all such transactions. Today's announcement calls for the companies to provide the FTC with details on all transactions completed between January 1st, 2010 and December 31st, 2019.
The FTC notes that these investigations don't have a specific law-enforcement goal in mind; instead, they're being used to help the FTC better understand how these companies generally handle acquisitions. Specifically, the agency wants to know how these companies routinely report their acquisitions to federal antitrust agencies and if the companies are making purchases of smaller companies or competitive companies that don't rate the reporting under the HSR Act guidelines. Besides looking at whether these companies are making smaller purchases that have anti-competitive implications, the FTC also wants to look at how smaller companies perform once being purchased by one of the tech giants.
While the agency says there isn't a specific law enforcement action being tied to these investigations, it's not hard to imagine the information it gathers being used to take further action if it deems necessary. Obviously, we won't know more until these companies report the requested information to the FTC, a process which could take some time.
We've reached out to all five companies involved in this investigation and will update this post if we receive any responses from them.