Apple CEO Tim Cook has spent much of July preparing for House antitrust hearing

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After reluctantly agreeing to testify before a House antitrust committee at the start of July, Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly spent much of the month since preparing for it.

Cook originally showed some reservations about appearing via video conference before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, prompting threats of a subpoena by lawmakers. On July 1, he agreed to testify.

The Apple executive has reportedly spent the time since then "huddling" with his government affairs team preparing for the meeting, according to a new report from The Information. Cook is known for his "meticulous" preparation measures.

Some of the participants in those preparatory gatherings include Lisa Jackson, Apple senior vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, and Tim Powderly, director of government affairs and Apple's top lobbyist.

As far as why Cook was holding out on testifying, people familiar with the executive's thinking said it's because he was "firm in his belief that Apple didn't belong with a group of companies increasingly viewed as antitrust malefactors."

More than that, The Information notes that Cook has spent many years avoiding toxic political environments that have "engulfed" Apple's tech industry contemporaries. Cook himself has been a critic of those other platforms.

The hearing could cast doubt on Apple's ability to continue to avoid political controversy, the publication notes. For example, while the hearing is about antitrust, lawmakers will be able to grill CEOs on any topic they choose.

A likely topic of scrutiny for Apple is its continued refusal to build a back door for law enforcement in its iPhones. Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly criticized Apple for that.

The hearing itself is part of a broader antitrust investigation by the U.S. House. The probe is examining the market power of major tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg are also slated to testify.

Apple is specifically being scrutinized for its App Store policies, including its role as both a gatekeeper and a participant in the app marketplace and the fact that it takes a 15% to 30% cut of in-app purchases made through its payment platform.

The Cupertino tech giant has been in the spotlight for those policies in recent months, including during a dustup with Basecamp-created email app Hey.

In an interview alongside Hey CTO David Heinemeier Hansson, the chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Antitrust called the 15% to 30% App Store fees "highway robbery."

The U.S. House hearing is slated for 12 p.m. Eastern (9 a.m. Pacific) on Monday, July 27.

 

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