The Federal Trade Commission said today it will take a ten-year look-back at acquisition activities of five U.S. tech giants to “deepen its understanding” of large tech company acquisition activity.

The agency also said the review will help it to determine “whether large tech companies are making potentially anticompetitive acquisitions of nascent or potential competitors” in smaller-sized transactions that fall below legal thresholds that would require approval from the government under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act (HSR Act). The asset value threshold for acquisitions requiring antitrust review is now about $94 million but was less than that ten years ago.

The FTC said its examination will cover acquisitions since 2010 by Alphabet (including Google),, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. The agency said it issued those firms special orders requiring them to provide information on any acquisition deals that were not previously reported to Federal antitrust agencies under the HSR Act, and to supply information about those transactions that normally would be required by the law.

“Digital technology companies are a big part of the economy and our daily lives,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons, in a statement. “This initiative will enable the Commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the Federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition. This will help us continue to keep tech markets open and competitive, for the benefit of consumers.”

The FTC is also asking the five tech firms for information on “corporate acquisition strategies, voting and board appointment agreements, agreements to hire key personnel from other companies, and post-employment covenants not to compete,” and data on post-acquisition product development, pricing, asset integration, and treatment of acquired data.

The FTC said its data request is a follow-up to discussions in its 2018 hearings on competition and consumer protection.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.