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Exclusive-Amazon.com previews FTC defense at companywide meeting -transcript

Amazon.com’s top lawyer on Tuesday previewed the broad outlines of the company’s possible defense against the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit against the retailer, at a private companywide meeting.

During the two-hour meeting, covering a range of topics, attorney David Zapolsky expressed confidence in Amazon’s ability to fend off the blockbuster lawsuit, calling the company’s tactics “absolutely defensible behavior,” according to a transcript of the meeting seen by Reuters.

Along the way, he quoted Taylor Swift lyrics as he sought to assuage employees’ concerns.

“The meme of the day, as a very scrutinized company, is to adopt the tao of Taylor Swift: ‘haters gonna hate’ and you have to ‘shake it off,” Zapolsky said, according to the transcript. He was joined by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and other executives.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed the long-awaited antitrust lawsuit against Amazon on Sept. 26 and asked the court to consider forcing the online retailer to sell assets as the government accuses Big Tech of monopolizing the most lucrative parts of the internet.

It accused Amazon of operating an illegal monopoly, in part by fighting efforts by sellers on its online marketplace to offer products more cheaply on other platforms. The lawsuit, which was joined by 17 state attorneys general, was filed in federal court in Seattle and follows a four-year investigation into the company’s practices.

The agency asked the court to issue a permanent injunction ordering Amazon to stop what it called unlawful conduct. In antitrust cases the range of solutions may include forcing a company to sell an asset, such as a part of its business.

The FTC takes “issue with us refusing to show prices that are higher than our biggest competitors,” Zapolsky said on Tuesday, according to the transcript. “It’s not that we don’t let customers sell at these prices, we just don’t feature that product at that price.”

“We think this is absolutely defensible behavior because to feature it would be to lose customer trust by advertising something that is not a good deal for them,” he said.

Amazon has said it disagrees with the FTC and would defend itself in court. A spokesman, Ty Rogers, declined additional comment on Tuesday, referring to a previous Amazon blog post contesting the allegations.

“The whole complaint is based on a very constrained and manufactured view that Amazon is a monopoly,” said Zapolsky. “This is at odds with not only how our competitors evaluate the marketplace, but also our own lived experience of how we shop.”

Zapolsky also addressed the FTC’s allegations that it forces sellers to use its warehouses and delivery services, saying that those choices are optional. “Featuring lower prices and offering customers faster delivery is absolutely consistent with antitrust laws,” he said.

Regarding the FTC, he said, “Filing this lawsuit gets a lot of publicity.” But, he assured Amazon workers, “We have seen this before.”

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