Mnuchin: DOJ 'absolutely right' to launch tech antitrust probe

Mnuchin: DOJ 'absolutely right' to launch tech antitrust probe
© Aaron Schwartz

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Tempers boil over at the White House Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever The Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy MORE voiced support Wednesday for a sweeping Justice Department (DOJ) antitrust investigation into the largest U.S. tech companies, taking special aim at Amazon.

Mnuchin told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the DOJ was “absolutely right” to investigate whether tech powerhouses like Amazon, Facebook and Google harm consumers by impeding competition. 

The Justice Department announced Tuesday it would probe “whether and how market-leading online platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers."

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Mnuchin homed in on Amazon’s impact on U.S. retailers that have suffered as more consumers consumers abandon brick-and-mortar stores for online shopping.

“If you look at Amazon, although there’s certain benefits to it, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States, so there’s no question they’ve limited competition,” Mnuchin said.

"There’s areas where they’ve hurt small businesses, so I don’t think this is a one-size-fits-all and I don’t have an opinion going other than I think it’s absolutely right that the attorney general is looking into these issues.”

Amazon’s massive growth and expansion has triggered bipartisan concern among lawmakers and policymakers. Dozens of Amazon warehouse and distribution center workers have also accused the company of unfair and dangerous working conditions.

But Mnuchin also suffered personal losses from Amazon’s dominance of U.S. commerce.

Mnuchin served on the board of directors of Sears Holding Corp. from 2005 until 2016 as the iconic retailer sunk into bankruptcy under the leadership of former chief executive Eddie Lampert, his college roommate.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE has also frequently blasted Amazon founder and CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosAmazon dumps million into Seattle elections Washington Post publisher: 'Corrosive' to liken unfavorable news to 'fake news' Trump joins Twitch platform MORE, who also owns The Washington Post, a consistent source of rage for the president. 

Amazon rebuffed Mnuchin's claims in a Wednesday statement, arguing that "small and medium-sized businesses are thriving with Amazon.

"Today, independent sellers make up more than 58% of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon, and their sales have grown twice as fast as our own, totaling $160 billion in 2018," said a company spokesperson.

"Amazon’s retail business competes in worldwide market for retail sales and represents less than 1% of global retail and less than 4% of U.S. retail. And the vast majority of retail sales – 90% – still occur in brick-and-mortar stores according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Updated at 4:55 p.m.