Amazon In Sketchy Partnership With Justice Department And FBI

OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion

Amazon appears to be making friends with the government in order to keep that same government off of its back.

The company is under major scrutiny as the behemoth dominates the marketplace, and fraud is widespread on its platform.

Critics say Amazon is attempting to avoid any harsh regulatory actions by partnering with the law enforcement arm of the government.

Politico is reporting that:

Amazon has found a powerful ally to help it protect its sprawling operations from fraud and abuse: the U.S. government.

The company has increasingly tipped off the Justice Department and FBI to investigate Amazon’s own employees and the sellers using its platform, according to a POLITICO analysis and a dozen interviews with Amazon employees, former federal prosecutors and financial crime experts. In addition, it has hired dozens of former DOJ and FBI employees, some of whom are filling out its internal teams aimed at policing its platform.

In the process, Amazon has built a closer relationship than many large companies have with federal law enforcement, a deep cooperation with one branch of the federal government that could help the company’s reputation in Washington as Amazon faces intensifying scrutiny from Congress and federal agencies over its market dominance and fraud on its platform.

The federal government has also indicted 20 people for crimes related to Amazon in the past year and a half, according to an analysis of public records — a number that exceeds indictments related to other comparably large companies like Walmart and FedEx. Over the same time period, the DOJ has announced three indictments against people committing criminal activity involving Walmart and two involving crimes related to FedEx.

Meanwhile, 15 more people are under federal investigation for Amazon-related crimes, according to the DOJ’s disclosures. Six of the people indicted have pleaded guilty; 14 are awaiting trial. In many of those cases, Amazon either tipped off the government or cooperated closely with the investigations.

Amazon’s detractors say that the company is being disingenuous, though.

The Politico report continues:

J. Kelly Strader, an author and academic focused on how companies deal with the government when they handle white-collar crime, said Amazon’s approach suggests a strategy that goes beyond simply reining in criminal activity.

“This looks like a huge and powerful company attempting to generate goodwill and appear to be cooperative with the government,” Strader said.

Ankush Khardori, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in financial fraud and white-collar crime, called Amazon’s tighter relationship a “smart thing for a company like Amazon to do in the current political climate,” in which the major tech companies are coming under greater regulatory scrutiny.

“It’s interesting because it’s different from a lot of the other tech companies,” Khardori said. He added that the other companies have a more “passive” relationship with law enforcement — mostly focused on access to their data.

The report maintains that Amazon appears to be outsourcing a job its employees should be doing to the federal government, at taxpayer expense.

While federal officials have discretion over which criminal cases they choose to pursue, Amazon has invested significant resources into pushing prosecutors and investigators to take on cases that it prefers. And the company appears to be getting results.

Many of the law enforcement actions show Amazon attempting to address the billions of counterfeit goods, fraudulent listings and scams on its ever-growing e-commerce platform amid criticism from federal regulators and U.S. lawmakers that it hasn’t done enough to curtail criminal activity. (Amazon said in 2019 that it had more than 8,000 employees fighting fraud on the platform, a number that stands at 10,000 now.) In doing so, Amazon has also built up an apparatus to make sure its issues get quick attention from law enforcement agencies with limited resources, in what some critics argue amounts to outsourcing what should be internal policing of its platform to federal law enforcement.

In conclusion, the report states that Amazon only began cooperating with federal law enforcement officials so that Congress wouldn’t force the company through legislation to clean up its own mess and stop billions in sales of counterfeit goods, which Amazon profits greatly from.

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