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Six Charged With Bribing Amazon Employees to Help Third-Party Sellers

Two weeks ago, Amazon filed an action against six people, including two company executives, accusing them of operating an international “classic caper,” as the California Attorney General’s Office put it, by paying Amazon employees and others to look the other way while they tried to flout the company’s rules for third-party sellers.

The New York Times obtained a copy of the charges (pdf) filed against several employees. It revealed that the incident dates back to 2017 and involved the company’s business rules for third-party sellers.

According to the charges, while trying to introduce a new product into Amazon’s marketplace, the group used the e-commerce giant’s online connection to more than 10,000 distributors to find a way to attach a $7,500 per month “bribe” to one seller.

Amazon, the charge also says, “supports more than a million independent sellers on its marketplace.” If these “thieves” managed to make it through that policy, they needed the help of “unattached or otherwise cooperating” Amazon employees — employees it is alleged “paid and paid to pay.”

Several employees did help the counterfeiters, the documents allege. After a number of complaints about the sellers, Amazon accused them of violating its policies and started an investigation.

Part of that process involves an email exchange between the accused and an Amazon employee. The accused then writes: “For every suspect who gets their thing approved [sic], seven have gotten away. With another sale passed onto [the seller’s] account…”

The employee responding had apparently decided to comply: “I can’t argue against your numbers. It is what it is.”

The accused wrote, “If it worked for us, it’s working for them.” Amazon employee replied: “I know it’s not a good thing for us to be complicit, I know I’m complicit and those involved in the scheme are complicit as well.”

After two months of an Amazon investigation, the company decided to seek a “record-setting” settlement with the six defendants. A $27 million payment (it’s expected to go higher based on actual costs) is the result.

The allegation of crooked employees is not surprising, as it fits with a long history of employees accused of turning a blind eye to misconduct. In the case of this alleged rogue unit, Amazon — like many companies — relies on its agents to act as watchdogs.

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