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Amazon's top watchdog in Congress says its witness 'may have lied'

Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) speaks at a Democratic press conference calling on the president to protect patients with existing coverage, lower drug prices and to expand healthcare coverage.
Michael Brochstein | Echoes Wire | Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Amazon’s witness at a hearing last year “may have lied to Congress” about how the company uses data from its third-party sellers to come up with its private-label products, House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline said Thursday.
The assertion comes after a Wall Street Journal investigation found Amazon employees had used non-aggregated or easily identifiable data from sellers on its platform to inform its proprietary product strategy, according to interviews with more than 20 former employees and documents reviewed by the Journal.

Those findings contradict testimony by Amazon’s associate general counsel Nate Sutton at a July hearing hosted by the subcommittee. At the time, and in written answers submitted later on, Sutton maintained that Amazon does not use the data of individual sellers to inform its strategy, though he said it does use aggregated data that could give it a sense of how a product category is performing.
“We do not use any of that specific seller data in creating our own private brand products,” Sutton said at the hearing.
The Journal’s investigation found that those aggregate reports could contain just two sellers or easily expose performance metrics of individual sellers through other means. An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC it doesn’t allow employees to use “non-public, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch” and said it had opened an internal investigation, though it doesn’t believe the allegations are true.
“At best, Amazon’s witness appears to have misrepresented key aspects of Amazon’s business practices while omitting important details in response to pointed questioning,” Cicilline said in a statement on the report. “At worst, the witness Amazon sent to speak on its behalf may have lied to Congress.”
Cicilline is leading an investigation into Amazon and its tech peers that will culminate in a report about the health of competition in digital markets.

“It’s simply incorrect to suggest that Amazon was intentionally misleading in our testimony,” the Amazon spokesperson told CNBC.
In a January interview with CNBC, Cicilline said it was evident the digital marketplace was “not functioning properly” and said he planned to create bipartisan regulatory proposals to address the issues after releasing the report. The report was initially expected by early April but has been delayed due to the pandemic.
The subcommittee also heard from smaller businesses that compete with Amazon services or claim to have experienced “bullying” tactics to coerce sellers into lowering their prices on the platform. Amazon has argued it is incentivized to keep sellers on its site and that there are other options if they want to leave. Sellers that have spoken out say the available alternatives would provide only a fraction of the revenue they’re able to make on Amazon. 
The chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said that if true, the Journal’s report “raises deep concerns about Amazon’s apparent lack of candor before the Committee regarding an issue that is central to our investigation.”
“Amazon has had opportunities to correct the record on its business practices. It is deeply concerning that, beginning with the hearing last year, they may have misled Congress rather than be fully forthcoming on this matter, notwithstanding our repeated requests in this regard,” Nadler said, adding that the committee would “seek clarification from Amazon in short order.” 
Amazon has been playing an integral role in getting Americans food and other goods while stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. But Nadler made clear in his statement that those efforts would not insulate it from antitrust scrutiny.
“While we acknowledge and are appreciative of Amazon’s ongoing work to support Americans during the COVID-19 crisis, we still need to understand the business practices existing prior to the pandemic that resulted in Amazon becoming the primary provider of goods online to millions of Americans,” Nadler said.
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WATCH: How US antitrust law works, and what it means for Big Tech

Featured
Amazon's top watchdog in Congress says its witness 'may have lied'

Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) speaks at a Democratic press conference calling on the president to protect patients with existing coverage, lower drug prices and to expand healthcare coverage.
Michael Brochstein | Echoes Wire | Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Amazon’s witness at a hearing last year “may have lied to Congress” about how the company uses data from its third-party sellers to come up with its private-label products, House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline said Thursday.
The assertion comes after a Wall Street Journal investigation found Amazon employees had used non-aggregated or easily identifiable data from sellers on its platform to inform its proprietary product strategy, according to interviews with more than 20 former employees and documents reviewed by the Journal.

Those findings contradict testimony by Amazon’s associate general counsel Nate Sutton at a July hearing hosted by the subcommittee. At the time, and in written answers submitted later on, Sutton maintained that Amazon does not use the data of individual sellers to inform its strategy, though he said it does use aggregated data that could give it a sense of how a product category is performing.
“We do not use any of that specific seller data in creating our own private brand products,” Sutton said at the hearing.
The Journal’s investigation found that those aggregate reports could contain just two sellers or easily expose performance metrics of individual sellers through other means. An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC it doesn’t allow employees to use “non-public, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch” and said it had opened an internal investigation, though it doesn’t believe the allegations are true.
“At best, Amazon’s witness appears to have misrepresented key aspects of Amazon’s business practices while omitting important details in response to pointed questioning,” Cicilline said in a statement on the report. “At worst, the witness Amazon sent to speak on its behalf may have lied to Congress.”
Cicilline is leading an investigation into Amazon and its tech peers that will culminate in a report about the health of competition in digital markets.

“It’s simply incorrect to suggest that Amazon was intentionally misleading in our testimony,” the Amazon spokesperson told CNBC.
In a January interview with CNBC, Cicilline said it was evident the digital marketplace was “not functioning properly” and said he planned to create bipartisan regulatory proposals to address the issues after releasing the report. The report was initially expected by early April but has been delayed due to the pandemic.
The subcommittee also heard from smaller businesses that compete with Amazon services or claim to have experienced “bullying” tactics to coerce sellers into lowering their prices on the platform. Amazon has argued it is incentivized to keep sellers on its site and that there are other options if they want to leave. Sellers that have spoken out say the available alternatives would provide only a fraction of the revenue they’re able to make on Amazon. 
The chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said that if true, the Journal’s report “raises deep concerns about Amazon’s apparent lack of candor before the Committee regarding an issue that is central to our investigation.”
“Amazon has had opportunities to correct the record on its business practices. It is deeply concerning that, beginning with the hearing last year, they may have misled Congress rather than be fully forthcoming on this matter, notwithstanding our repeated requests in this regard,” Nadler said, adding that the committee would “seek clarification from Amazon in short order.” 
Amazon has been playing an integral role in getting Americans food and other goods while stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic. But Nadler made clear in his statement that those efforts would not insulate it from antitrust scrutiny.
“While we acknowledge and are appreciative of Amazon’s ongoing work to support Americans during the COVID-19 crisis, we still need to understand the business practices existing prior to the pandemic that resulted in Amazon becoming the primary provider of goods online to millions of Americans,” Nadler said.
Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.
WATCH: How US antitrust law works, and what it means for Big Tech

Featured
Stock Alert: Activision Blizzard Gain Continues

(RTTNews) – Activision Blizzard (ATVI), one of the world’s most popular video game producers saw its shares gaining nearly 20% during the last one month. Wednesday, the stock was up $1.26 or 1.92% before closing at $66.98, close to its 52-week high of $68.32.
During the coronavirus pandemic, since most of the people are confined to homes, many are entertaining themselves by playing video games.
In the fourth quarter, more than 409 million people played Activision’s games compared with 356 million people in the same quarter a year ago.
Looking forward to the first quarter, the company sees adjusted EPS at $0.66 on revenue of $1.64 billion. On average 29 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters currently estimate earnings of $0.38 per share and revenues of $1.32 billion.
The company intends to release its first-quarter results on Tuesday, May 5.

For the full-year, EPS on an adjusted basis is expected at $2.22 on revenue of $6.45 billion. Analysts estimate earnings of $2.48 per share and revenues of $6.86 billion.
In the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2019, Activision had net revenues of $1.986 billion, down from $2.38 billion last year.
Earnings of $1.23 per share, however, beat the Street estimates of $0.62.

Featured
SDRPY Contributes to Emergency Flood Relief in Aden

ADEN, Yemen, April 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY) yesterday responded to a distress call from the Yemeni government and began providing assistance to relieve Aden Governorate and rescue Yemeni citizens from flooding caused by torrential rains.
Teams from SDRPY began work early in the day, implementing urgent measures to drain floodwater and open the main roads. Further work teams opened the Aqaba Road and the link between the Crater District and Al-Mualla District after the floods caused its closure. These work teams removed large quantities of water from the power stations in Mansoura, the stadium, Chinaz, and Hajif, as well as Block 80 in Mansoura, and also re-opened a number of damaged roads, including the Shoula Road and the Sheikh Ishaq Road, and carried out several other urgent interventions in Hafoun.
SDRPY has helped prepare action plans to implement urgent interventions to assist the people of Aden in overcoming the consequences of the floodwater and torrential rains in various locations, including in Tawahi, Al-Mualla and the Crater District; Bir Ahmed Camp, Hosh Al-Majari Camp, the Saudi Agricultural Institute Camp, Ammar bin Yasser Camp and Hosh Othman Camp; the Al-Hamra highway and the main streets in Al-Mualla and Shabatt.
Alongside this, SDRPY is intensifying its efforts to alleviate the suffering of the people of Aden Governorate by providing waste transport and bulldozer equipment, water withdrawal tanks and water displacement mechanisms. All of these efforts have been undertaken in partnership with the local council, the Cleaning Fund and civil society organizations in the temporary capital of Aden. It is worth noting that SDRPY always works to harness its capabilities to mitigate the damage caused by the floods and torrential rains that Aden is subject to from time to time.
This comes as SDRPY continues its “Beautiful Aden” campaign for cleaning and sanitation, which has just completed its fourth week. More than 300 participants, 12 field monitors, 80 participants from civil society organizations and 40 participants from local farms have taken part in the campaign’s activities. The hygiene and environmental sanitation teams are continuing this work, seeking to improve the level of public health and preventive measures in the province, and to reduce environmental and health hazards to which the governorate has been exposed.

The hygiene and environmental sanitation campaign includes 10 districts in 8 directorates: Sheikh Othman, Mansoura (Abdel Aziz), Mansoura (Cairo), Dar Saad, Inma and Al Shaab, Brega, Khormaksar, Al Mualla, Al Tawahi and the Crater District, and works in cooperation with the Cleaning Fund in Aden.
 
 
Photo – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1159021/Image_1.jpgPhoto – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1159022/Image_2.jpgPhoto – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1159023/Image_3.jpg  

Featured
Fannie and Freddie to buy loans in bailout program

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Featured
LendingClub slashes roughly 30% of workforce as Covid-19 dampens demand for loans

Lending Club banners hang on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange for it’s IPO on December 11, 2014 in New York.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

LendingClub is cutting roughly a third of its staff as the Covid-19 slowdown dampens demand for consumer loans. 
The company, which pioneered online personal loans, said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it would lay off 460 people — or about 30% of its workforce.

LendingClub CEO Scott Sanborn said the virus outbreak was having an “unprecedented effect” on consumers and small businesses, resulting in a drop in demand for personal loans. The move was necessary to “realign” staffing with the current business environment, he said. 
“With these actions, we believe we are well positioned to achieve our long-term strategic goals and better serve our members, who will need us more than ever, once the economy stabilizes,” Sanborn said in a statement.
The company also said it was reducing executives’ salaries by 25%. Sanborn, meanwhile, will take a 30% pay cut. 
LendingClub calls itself the biggest U.S. provider of personal loans, and had been part of the wave of tech-focused firms getting in on marketplace lending. The company had the biggest domestic tech IPO of 2014. But two years, the company was dealt a blow when LendingClub’s founder was ousted amid irregularities with loan practices. 
It’s now one of many fintech loan providers feeling the effects of the recent small business slowdown. Fellow online lender Kabbage furloughed workers in late March, according to TechCrunch. Unlike some of its peers, Lending Club was not approved as a lender in the U.S. governments Paycheck Protection Program. It is however, facilitating loans to Opportunity Fund and Funding Circle, who are funding the government-backed loans. 

In February, LendingClub became the first U.S. fintech company to acquire a bank. The company said it was buying Boston-based, Radius Bancorp for $185 million to give it access a stable and cheaper source of funding. 
Shares of the Lending Club were down 4% in regular trading Tuesday, and have fallen more than 40% this year. 

Featured
LendingClub slashes roughly 30% of workforce as Covid-19 dampens demand for loans

Lending Club banners hang on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange for it’s IPO on December 11, 2014 in New York.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

LendingClub is cutting roughly a third of its staff as the Covid-19 slowdown dampens demand for consumer loans. 
The company, which pioneered online personal loans, said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it would lay off 460 people — or about 30% of its workforce.

LendingClub CEO Scott Sanborn said the virus outbreak was having an “unprecedented effect” on consumers and small businesses, resulting in a drop in demand for personal loans. The move was necessary to “realign” staffing with the current business environment, he said. 
“With these actions, we believe we are well positioned to achieve our long-term strategic goals and better serve our members, who will need us more than ever, once the economy stabilizes,” Sanborn said in a statement.
The company also said it was reducing executives’ salaries by 25%. Sanborn, meanwhile, will take a 30% pay cut. 
LendingClub calls itself the biggest U.S. provider of personal loans, and had been part of the wave of tech-focused firms getting in on marketplace lending. The company had the biggest domestic tech IPO of 2014. But two years, the company was dealt a blow when LendingClub’s founder was ousted amid irregularities with loan practices. 
It’s now one of many fintech loan providers feeling the effects of the recent small business slowdown. Fellow online lender Kabbage furloughed workers in late March, according to TechCrunch. Unlike some of its peers, Lending Club was not approved as a lender in the U.S. governments Paycheck Protection Program. It is however, facilitating loans to Opportunity Fund and Funding Circle, who are funding the government-backed loans. 

In February, LendingClub became the first U.S. fintech company to acquire a bank. The company said it was buying Boston-based, Radius Bancorp for $185 million to give it access a stable and cheaper source of funding. 
Shares of the Lending Club were down 4% in regular trading Tuesday, and have fallen more than 40% this year. 

Featured
LendingClub slashes roughly 30% of workforce as Covid-19 dampens demand for loans

Lending Club banners hang on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange for it’s IPO on December 11, 2014 in New York.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

LendingClub is cutting roughly a third of its staff as the Covid-19 slowdown dampens demand for consumer loans. 
The company, which pioneered online personal loans, said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it would lay off 460 people — or about 30% of its workforce.

LendingClub CEO Scott Sanborn said the virus outbreak was having an “unprecedented effect” on consumers and small businesses, resulting in a drop in demand for personal loans. The move was necessary to “realign” staffing with the current business environment, he said. 
“With these actions, we believe we are well positioned to achieve our long-term strategic goals and better serve our members, who will need us more than ever, once the economy stabilizes,” Sanborn said in a statement.
The company also said it was reducing executives’ salaries by 25%. Sanborn, meanwhile, will take a 30% pay cut. 
LendingClub calls itself the biggest U.S. provider of personal loans, and had been part of the wave of tech-focused firms getting in on marketplace lending. The company had the biggest domestic tech IPO of 2014. But two years, the company was dealt a blow when LendingClub’s founder was ousted amid irregularities with loan practices. 
It’s now one of many fintech loan providers feeling the effects of the recent small business slowdown. Fellow online lender Kabbage furloughed workers in late March, according to TechCrunch. Unlike some of its peers, Lending Club was not approved as a lender in the U.S. governments Paycheck Protection Program. It is however, facilitating loans to Opportunity Fund and Funding Circle, who are funding the government-backed loans. 

In February, LendingClub became the first U.S. fintech company to acquire a bank. The company said it was buying Boston-based, Radius Bancorp for $185 million to give it access a stable and cheaper source of funding. 
Shares of the Lending Club were down 4% in regular trading Tuesday, and have fallen more than 40% this year.