Senators own up to $ 25 million in big tech stocks – Sludge

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On Friday morning, new unredacted documents were released following a lawsuit by state attorneys general claiming that Google and Facebook colluded to split the digital advertising market, with Google allegedly giving Facebook benefits individuals when using its advertising platform through a secret deal dubbed “Jedi Blue.” “The unsealed complaint provided a wealth of details about the antitrust lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general in December 2020 and joined by 14 other states and Puerto Rico. The documents also allege that Google invited tech giants Apple, Facebook and Microsoft to join forces to block proposals to protect the privacy of data for children and adolescents.

As the House and Senate consider passing new legislation to curb the power of Big Techs, senators may soon vote on laws that could allow the regulatory bursting of the companies in which they are invested. Currently, 18 senators or their households own shares in tech companies dubbed FANGAM – for Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google (parent company Alphabet), Amazon and Microsoft – valued at a low of $ 9.9 million and a maximum of $ 9.9 million. $ 24.6 million, according to a Sludge review of financial information. Assets are reported to the Senate Public Records Office as being held individually, by a spouse, in a joint trust, or for a dependent child, and their values ​​are only disclosed in broad ranges, making it impossible to count. more precise.

Three senators with shares in Big Tech are members of the judicial subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law: Democrat Jon Ossoff, with up to $ 5 million in Apple; Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, with a total of $ 5.5 million held with his wife in the FANGAM group; and Republican John Kennedy, with up to $ 15,000 held in Microsoft for a dependent. Eight other senators whose households own shares in Big Tech are members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s subcommittee on communications, media and broadband, which has jurisdiction over the Internet.

Senators appear to be the most invested in Apple of all the major tech companies, with 14 Senators holding up to $ 14 million in its stock, followed by Microsoft, with 12 Senators owning up to $ 4 million in portfolios. their households. . Ten Senators are invested in Amazon stocks, with a combined investment of up to $ 3 million, and eight are invested in Google, with a maximum combined value of $ 2 million. Five Senators own Facebook shares with a combined value of up to $ 845,000, and the two who own Netflix shares have up to $ 600,000 combined held on the video platform. Just over half of Senators invested in Big Tech are Republicans, with 10 members, but Democrats hold the vast majority of FANGAM’s dollar amount, with a low of $ 7.7 million and a high of 20, $ 4 million held, or about 80% of the Senate. broad minimum and maximum totals.

The latest allegations come just weeks after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen provided internal company documents to the SEC, which news reports show researchers on the social network were aware of the radicalizing effects of her. algorithm and severe mental health effects of its applications, but that management has blocked actions to address the many harms of their products to maximize profits and growth for juice users.

Over the past two months, senators have introduced bills that would target the power of big tech companies to crush their competitors and rig lucrative digital advertising markets. In June, members of the House Judiciary Committee introduced – and were narrowly dismissed by the committee – a set of six antitrust bills dealing with the market power of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, including including measures to prevent platforms from promoting their own products. With influential tech industry lobbies mobilized in a “plenary press” against the package, the most controversial of the measures, the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, was passed by the committee by a vote of 21-20, several members committee avoiding the final vote. . Last week, the chairman and senior member of the House Judiciary subcommittee that oversees antitrust laws met with Haugen as they continue to work on legislation focused on Big Tech’s market share ahead of a possible vote in the Bedroom.

On October 14, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the leading Republican within of the Senate Judiciary Committee, unveiled the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a companion to the House antitrust package that would ban practices reformers deem anti-competitive. The Senate version has 11 co-sponsors at the time of writing.

In August, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced the bipartisan Open App Markets Act, also referred to the Judiciary Committee, which would ban companies like Apple and Google from prioritizing their own offerings in their app stores while offering a legal route to third parties. -part app stores, among other changes. At the previous convention, the bipartisan ACCESS Act also aimed to foster competition by requiring the largest tech companies to make portable user data and social media services interoperable.

[For more conflict-of-interest reporting, get the free Sludge newsletter, sent about twice a month with our original investigations and money-in-politics links from around the internet.]

The Ending Platform Monopolies Act, sponsored by Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Would make it illegal for large technology platform operators to sell their own products on their platforms or to force companies to buy products from them in order to access their platforms, aimed at eliminating conflicts of interest and potentially altering the business operations of Amazon Marketplace, Apple’s App Store, and Google’s search indexing of its own products such as links Youtube. The Platform Competition and Opportunity Act would prohibit large platforms from acquiring competitors, as Facebook has done with Instagram and WhatsApp.

This month, a group of 60 organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the National Hispanic Media Coalition, launched a campaign webpage, HowToStopFacebook, advocating for stricter federal data privacy laws that prevent companies from collecting data for algorithmic amplification of inflammatory content and removal of other types of content in order to maximize the time users spend on social media applications.

In an October 14 statement on the Sens non-discrimination bill. Klobuchar and Grassley, Sarah Miller, executive director of the anti-monopoly group American Economic Liberties Project, said: “Given how the judges rule in favor of dominant companies, this bill alone will not be enough to free small businesses. businesses, entrepreneurs, workers and local communities stuck in the grip of Silicon Valley … The Senate must continue to reaffirm its power over the handful of men whose businesses are undermining economic dynamism, gutting the free press and threaten our democracy itself.

Methodology

This analysis, with data as of October 25, 2021, does not include shares held by Senators in companies that are part of the larger industry of internet-focused companies like Salesforce, PayPal, Yelp, or the commerce site. Alibaba electronics. . It also does not include shares held by Senators in Internet-related electronics manufacturing companies like Dell, Intel, or Oracle. Equity holdings and ranges of value have been disclosed in the 2020 annual financial disclosures, new filer disclosures, and periodic transaction reports issued by the Senate Public Records Office.

Various Results

  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) Previously revealed that her spouse, investor Richard Blum, held a large amount of Avid Technology shares in her disclosure for calendar year 2019, but in her 2020 report revealed that she had sold all Avid shares.
  • On July 30, Senator Hickenlooper’s wife bought between $ 15,000 and $ 50,000 in stock in social media company Pinterest, while offloading up to $ 50,000 in stock in social media company Snap on July 27. The transactions were disclosed on August 8.
  • Retired Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) And his wife said they received up to $ 15,000 in shares of Zomato, a multinational online food delivery technology company, after a share swap during the acquisition of the sports company Fitso in January.
  • Two senators say they own shares on eBay: Jacky Rosen, in a joint trust with up to $ 15,000, and John Boozman, with up to the same amount.
  • Senator Inhofe’s 2020 disclosure report lists his Apple investment as held by an excluded trust and his Microsoft shares held in an excluded investment fund, with Amazon shares classified as capital gains.
  • Republican Roger Marshall of Kansas and retiree Rob Portman of Ohio each said their households sold Microsoft shares last year, realizing capital gains.

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