Congressman calls for antitrust hearing into Amazon-Whole Foods deal
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., told CNBC on Tuesday that Congress should hold an antitrust hearing into the Amazon-Whole Foods Market deal to figure out what the implications of the transaction may be. In June, Amazon announced it would acquire Whole Foods for $42 a share or $13.7 billion in an all-cash transaction, including Whole Foods Market’s net debt.
In a press release, the two companies said that Whole Foods will continue to operate stores under the Whole Foods Market banner, and that John Mackey will remain as CEO of Whole Foods and that Whole Foods’ headquarters will stay in Austin.
But Cicilline recently wrote a letter to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the House Judiciary Committee chairman, and Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., the chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, asking them to look into the matter.
"People have a lot of anxiety about the creeping monopolies and mega-mergers that are giving consumers less and less power in the marketplace," Cicilline said in an interview with CNBC
Cicilline said he did not want to block the deal, but explore potential consequences surrounding it.
"This is an important transaction,” he told CNBC. “We should study it carefully. We should understand the implications … on jobs, on competition, on the marketplace and what the impact will be on consumers.
Cicilline, a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, also said this is an opportunity to see if antitrust laws need to be updated.
"Our antitrust laws were enacted ... more than 100 years ago in the context of railroad monopolies, and maybe in the face of automation and this new economy, the digital economy, we need to do some refreshing of our antitrust statutes," he added.
According to Reuters, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents retail workers, sent a letter to antitrust enforcers on Monday warning of the dangers of Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods both to workers and consumers. Whole the union does not represent Whole Foods employees, it asked the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize the deal.
“Amazon arguably poses a greater threat to our retail economy than any other online or traditional brick and mortar grocer," UFCW International President Marc Perrone wrote in a letter to the FTC.