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Several senators overseeing anti-Apple rules controversially own shares

Apple continues to be under scrutiny from Congress

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Several members of Congress overseeing big tech companies are accused of owning significant number of Apple shares, which may lead to a conflict of interest.

As big tech companies, especially Apple, come under increasing scrutiny from governments around the world, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) has been accused of essentially colluding with Apple because he may own stock in the company. The New York Post makes vague claims that unidentified “watchdogs” are concerned about conflicts of interest, but the publication appears to be the accuser.

It is difficult to say for sure whether the accusation comes from The New York Post itself or whether there are actual watchdogs accusing Ossoff and other members of Congress. This is because the publication’s article is hyperbolic and so borders on hysteria that with all this noise it is difficult to find facts.

However, the publication's position is that Senator Ossoff, who has opposed stock trading in Congress, is among nearly one in five in the Senate “who owns or is likely to own” Apple stock. This language is not as vague as it seems, since the publication takes into account senators who, like Ossoff, have invested their shares in a blind trust.

“You can't put Apple stock in a blind trust and pretend you don't have Apple stock,” Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, told The New York Post. “This blind trust business won't work unless you actually sell the underlying assets.”

At least 14 other members of Congress are reported to have Apple stock. They include Democratic Senators John Hickenlooper, Thomas Carper, Jacky Rosen, Ron Wyden and Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as Senator Ossoff.

They also include Republican Senators Keith Britt, Tommy Tuberville, John Boozman, Susan Collins, Markwayne Mullin, Tim Scott, Bill Hagerty and Shelley Moore Capito.

But speaking specifically about Senator Ossoff, Painter said he showed “really bad judgment” by not selling his stake in Apple after taking office. It seems that the general rule should apply to everyone who takes office — This is what, at least in part, the blind trust regulation Ossoff champions will address.

The publication claims that Ossoff owned between $1 million and $5 million in Apple stock before creating the blind trust in 2021. In this case, the discrepancy in details appears to be related to the publication, with other sources saying Apple represented half of Ossoff's net work before taking office.

Senator Ossoff is apparently not involved in the Justice Department's antitrust case against Apple. However, he is a member of the majority of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

In this capacity, he voted to advance legislation through a pair of bills: the American Innovation and Online Choice Act (AICOA) and the App Open Markets Act. Neither bill passed into law, presumably after lobbying from firms including Apple.

Both bills focus on anti-regulation that prevents firms from giving preferential promotion to their own services. The AICOA bill would also at least encourage Apple to allow sideloading and third-party app stores.

Both bills were delayed due to lack of sufficient support, which ultimately led to their defeat. However, a very similar legislation was subsequently passed into law in the European Union.

The New York Post reports that while Ossoff publicly supported both bills, he privately expressed concerns about them. In particular, he questioned the impact of the bills on user security and data privacy, as Apple has done.

“Dealing with a senator who regularly repeated Apple talking points — as if it weren’t obvious that they were Apple talking points — was bad enough,” an unnamed source told the publication. “But what was even worse was that, in all likelihood, at the time he did this, he owned millions of dollars of Apple stock.”

A spokesman for Senator Ossoff told The New York Post that the criticism was “ridiculous.” A spokesman declined to comment on whether the senator's blind trust includes Apple stock.

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