The Federal Trade Commission is examining whether corporate acquisitions by America's biggest technology companies going back a decade have harmed competition, a sign the U.S. government is raising the heat on Big Tech.
The regulatory agency on Tuesday ordered Google-owner Alphabet, Amazon.com, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft to provide information and documents related to any mergers or acquisitions they made between 2010 and the end of last year.
The FTC said it is looking at hundreds of deals the companies made over that time period, including any acquisitions the companies didn't report to antitrust enforcers at the time because the deals were supposedly exempt from disclosure requirements. More specifically, the agency said it is looking into whether big tech companies are making "potentially anticompetitive acquisitions" that have fallen below the FTC's and other regulators' radar.
"This will help us continue to keep tech markets open and competitive for the benefit of consumers," FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement.
The FTC's investigation comes as several government agencies explore whether the nation's largest tech companies have become too powerful. In July, the Department of Justice announced that it was looking into whether large online platforms have acted in ways that hurt competition and stifle innovation. The FTC said its latest action is separate from prior investigations that it and other agencies have announced centering on the tech industry.
FTC officials said they are in the early stages of their investigation, which is focusing on companies' previous acquisitions. Notably, however, agency officials said potential remedies could include retroactively unwinding deals found to have reduced competition.
"All of our options are on the table," Simons said in a conference call with reporters. "If there are some transactions that are problematic, then we have that opportunity and that ability to go back and challenge" them.
Simons also said companies could be required to spin out assets or change their business practices.
A spokesman for Facebook declined comment on the FTC action. Spokesmen for Google and Amazon said the companies had no immediate comment; spokesmen for Microsoft and Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.