DoJ Charges Six People in Amazon Bribery Scheme - TheStreet

DoJ Charges Six People in Amazon Bribery Scheme

The individuals allegedly paid bribes to Amazon employees and contractors to give some third-party sellers an unfair advantage.
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The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday accused six people of using bribery and fraud to give certain third-party sellers an advantage on Amazon's  (AMZN) - Get Report  marketplace. 

According to the DoJ, the individuals -- who are based in New York, California, Georgia and India -- conspired to pay out more than $100,000 in commercial bribes to Amazon employees and contractors in order to ensure a competitive advantage for some third-party sellers. 

“Realizing they could not compete on a level playing field, the subjects turned to bribery and fraud in order to gain the upper hand," said FBI special agent Raymond Duda in a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.

"What's equally concerning, not only did they attempt to increase sales of their own products, but sought to damage and discredit their competitors.” 

The people charged in the indictment presented themselves as "consultants" to third-party merchants. The merchants they worked with were selling a range of goods including household items, consumer electronics, and dietary supplements. They allegedly paid bribes at least 10 Amazon employees and contractors. 

The Amazon employees and contractors rigged the performance of those third-party sellers through a variety of methods, including reinstating suspended accounts, relaying proprietary information about competitors and Amazon's marketplace, and facilitating fake reviews and other attacks on competing sellers, according to the DOJ. 

In a statement, Amazon said that it had worked with the DoJ and other law enforcement agencies on the case, and that the implicated employees had been fired.

"Amazon has systems in place to detect suspicious behavior by sellers or employees, and teams in place to investigate and stop prohibited activity," said the company. "We are especially disappointed by the actions of this limited group of now former employees, and appreciate the collaboration and support from law enforcement to bring them and the bad actors they were entwined with to justice."

Amazon has faced increasing scrutiny over dubious activity on its third-party marketplace. 

One year ago, a Wall Street Journal report found that thousands of third-party products that had been banned, mislabeled or deemed unsafe by U.S. federal agencies were for sale on Amazon's marketplace. Some of those listings had been promoted by Amazon.  

More recently, a CNN Business investigation found dozens of products within Amazon's own Amazon Basics label, such as electronics, that had been reported as unsafe. 

Shares of Amazon, the Seattle tech and online-retail giant, closed 1.8% lower on Friday at $2,954.91. They are up 55% year to date.