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Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Well Known Tech Antitrust Critic Works For Apple And Amazon On The Side

Courtesy of ZeroHedge View original post here.

One of the country's most well known antitrust critics, Fiona Scott Morton, happens to be advising two of the biggest tech names in the country, Amazon and Apple, on the side. Morton was labeled a "antitrust crusader" in 2019 by the New Republic. 

Scott Morton has consistently said that tech giants are stifling competition and innovation in the country, but failed to recently disclose relationships with Amazon and Apple in papers she recently co-authored, according to Bloomberg. The papers laid out how the U.S. could bring antitrust cases against both Google and Facebook. 

She claims that she usually discloses conflicts and that lack of disclosure on the papers shouldn't be an issue because "Apple and Amazon didn’t pay her to write them" and because they "didn't focus" on either company. She failed to address the obvious, however: that those companies are competitors of both Google and Facebook. 

“I work for companies that I’m comfortable are not breaking the law. So you’re articulating what is making the market work well and how the company’s conduct is pro-competitive or efficient,” she said.

The consulting work she is doing raises obvious ethics questions, especially as antitrust probes are starting to broaden. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are all expected to face significant government scrutiny when they testify July 27 before a House panel.

Scott Morton's past includes serving for the Justice Department's anti-trust division from 2011 to 2012. She claims that consulting is "important to her research and teaching" (and wallet) and declined to offer further details about her work. 

George DeMartino, a professor at the University of Denver who specializes in ethic says that Scott Morton "should have disclosed her work for Amazon and Apple in the papers". American Economic Association principles dictate that "economists disclose real and potential conflicts that might influence their work".

DeMartino said: “Professionals have a duty to maintain trust, which as we now know is a fragile thing. That requires disclosing any actual conflict of interest or any entanglement that might reasonably be interpreted by others as a conflict.”

Gene Kimmelman, a senior adviser at Public Knowledge, who worked with Scott Morton on the Google and Facebook reports said that "conflicts are rife in the antitrust field". He defended Scott Morton and said that she disclosed her work to him. “I wish all antitrust economists and lawyers had the level of integrity and consistency in analysis she has demonstrated over and over again,” he said.

He also says he hired an outside lawyer to navigate potential conflicts regarding 10 different advisors he asked for help. Almost all of them had conflicts, he said. “Part of the game is to hire them to prevent your opponents from being able to hire them. It’s a large investment that can pay off enormously.”

Economists are "among the most important" hires for companies facing anti-trust violations, Carl Shapiro, an economist at the University of California-Berkeley, said. Google specifically has hired tons of economists, who have cranked out a total of about 330 research papers between 2005 and 2017 that the company supported directly or indirectly. Recipients failed to disclose the funding source in 65% of cases. 

Scott Morton stands out, however, because she has been such a high profile name: she has appeared on panel discussions and has testified in front of congress. Last year she helped pen a paper about the "immense power of tech platforms". 

And the names funding her have also come under scrutiny. Amazon has specifically been the target of Elizabeth Warren, who Tweeted in 2019: "Giant tech companies have too much power. My plan to #BreakUpBigTech prevents corporations like Amazon from knocking out the rest of the competition. You can be an umpire, or you can be a player — but you can’t be both."

At the time, Scott Morton retweeted the Tweet and said: “This is the most articulate explanation of this Amazon theory of harm I have heard so far.”

She has since deleted the Tweet. 


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