Reuters investigation on Amazon snowballs into fiery letter by 5 US lawmakers

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By Nikhila Natarajan
New York, Oct 19 |
Five members of a US congressional committee have told Amazon Inc that it led them on the wrong road during a probe on business practices.

Following up on a Reuters report from New Delhi, the lawmakers shot off a blunt six-page letter as well as a press statement.

“At best, this (Reuters) reporting confirms that Amazon’s representatives misled the Committee. At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress in possible violation of federal criminal law.AIn light of the serious nature of this matter, we are providing you with a final opportunity to provide exculpatory evidence to corroborate the prior testimony and statements on behalf of Amazon to the Committee.

“We strongly encourage you to make use of this opportunity to correct the record and provide the Committee with sworn, truthful, and accurate responses to this request as we consider whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate,” both documents reviewed by IANS said.

In this letter, addressed to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Sunday, the lawmakers asked Amazon to provide “exculpatory evidence” to corroborate the sworn testimony that several leaders, including then CEO, Jeff Bezos, provided to the antitrust subcommittee in 2019 and 2020.

Exculpatory evidence is evidence favourable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate guilt. It is the opposite of inculpatory evidence, which tends to present guilt.

In the US, police and prosecutors are required to disclose to the defendant exculpatory evidence they possess before the defendant enters a plea (guilty or not guilty).

Signatories included Representatives David Cicilline (Democrat, Rhode Island), Ken Buck (Republic, Colorado), Pramila Jayapal (D, Washinton), Jerrold Nadler (D, New York.) and Matt Gaetz (R, Florida). Some have spoken independently too.

“We’re giving Amazon one last chance to come clean about how they abuse other seller’s data and unfairly advantage their own products. We cannot continue to allow Big Tech to destroy small businesses,” Cicilline tweeted.

The sub-committee investigated Amazon’s use of data from third-party sellers even as it developed private-label products.

An Amazon spokesman was quoted countering Athat its executives didn’t mislead and said the company has an internal policy on use of individual seller data to develop Amazon products. Amazon also said it investigates allegations that the policy may have been violated and designs the search function on its site to feature products that customers want.

At issue is how Amazon responded to accusations that it uses the data of third-party sellers on its site when creating private-label products. Amazon executives are on record telling members of the subcommittee in testimony and in written responses that the company doesn’t use the data of individual third-party sellers to inform its own brands.

The letter names Bezos, Nate Sutton, Amazon’s associate general counsel, who testified in July of 2019, and David Zapolsky, the company’s general counsel, and Brian Huseman, Vice President for Public Policy. The letter states that the committee is considering “whether a referral of this matter to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation is appropriate”.

The committee gave Jassy until November 1 to provide a sworn response to clarify “how Amazon uses non-public individual seller data to develop and market its own line of products”, and how Amazon’s search rankings favour those products.

Last week, another group of lawmakers, comprising both sides of the US political aisle, led by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, Republican, announced plans to float legislation to bar Big Tech platforms like Amazon and Alphabet’s Google from favouring their own stuff.

The Klobuchar-Grassley measure aims at reining in tech firms, including industry leaders Facebook and Apple. Past attempts on these lines have failed although one, a broader measure to increase resources for antitrust enforcers, has passed the Senate.

Amazon, as per a Reuters investigation, is accused of using data from third-party sellers to determine products it would create.

Reuters said it reviewed “thousands of internal Amazon documents, that the US company’s India operations ran a systematic campaign of creating knockoffs and manipulating search results to boost its own private brands in the country, one of the company’s largest growth markets”.

Jassy, 53, a Harvard MBA is a classic insider. His Amazon journey began in 1997 as a marketing manager alongside others from his class. By 2020 he had turned AWS, his baby, into a $45 billion milch cow. Jassy succeeded Bezos July 5.

(Nikhila Natarajan tweets @byniknat)

Source: IANS

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Does MBA really help in getting a better job offer ?

Does MBA really help in getting a better job offer ?

Most students pursuing an MBA come with the sole objective of having a decent job offer or a promotion in the existing job soon after completion of the MBA. And most of them take loans to pursue this career dream. According to a recent survey by education portal Campusutra.com  74% MBA 2022-24 aspirants said they would opt for education loans.

There are exceptional cases like those seeking master’s degree or may have a family business to take care of or an entrepreneurial venture in mind. But the exception cases are barely 1%. For the rest 99%, a management degree is a ticket to a dream job through campus placements or leap towards career enhancements. Stakes are high as many of them quit their jobs which essentially means loss of 2 years of income, apprehension and uncertainty of the job market. On top of that, the pressure to pay back the education loans. Hence the returns have to be high. There is more than just the management degree. Colleges need to ensure that they offer quality management education which enables them to be prepared for not just the demands of recruiters and for a decent job but also to sustain and achieve, all along their career path.

  • So, what exactly are the B Schools doing to prepare their students for the job market and make them industry ready ?
  •  Are B schools ready to deliver and prepare the future business leaders to cope up with the disrupted market ?  

These are the two key questions every MBA aspirant needs to ask, check and validate before filling the MBA application forms of management institutes. And worth mentioning that these application forms do not come cheap. An MBA aspirant who may have shortlisted 5 B Schools to apply for, may end up spending Rs 10,000.00 to Rs 15,000.00 just buying MBA / PGDM application forms.

While internship and placements data of some management institutes clearly indicates that recruiters today have specific demands. The skill sets looked for are job centric and industry oriented. MBA schools which have adopted new models of delivery and technology, redesigned their courses, built an effective evaluation process and prepared the students to cope with the dynamic business scenario, have done great with campus placements despite the economic slow down.

However, the skill set being looked for by a consulting company like Deloitte or KPMG may be quite different from FMCG or a manufacturing sector. Institutes need to acknowledge this fact and act accordingly.

  • Management institutes should ensure that students are intellectually engaged, self motivated and adapt to changes fast. In one word ‘VUCA ready’.
  • B Schools should encourage students to participate in national and international competitive events, simulations of business scenarios.
  • Institutes should have the right mix of faculty members with industry exposure and pure academics.

The placement records of 2021 across top management institutes indicated the fact that recruitment is happening, skilled talent is in demand and certain management institutions continued to attract recruiters even in the middle of an ongoing crisis.

It is time, all management institutes rise to the occasion, understand market realities and identify areas of improvement at both ends – students and faculty.

After all, the stakes are high at both ends. B Schools taking corrective measures will stay while those which are lagging will end up shutting down.

Author Name : Nirmalya Pal

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