EBay slams ‘alarming’ Meta subpoena in FTC monopoly case

FILE PHOTO: An eBay sign at an office building in San Jose, California

By Mike Scarcella

(Reuters) – E-commerce platform eBay Inc on Monday asked a U.S. judge to block a bid by Meta Platforms Inc for testimony from an eBay corporate official as the social media giant seeks rivals’ information to counter a Federal Trade Commission antitrust lawsuit.

EBay’s lawyers from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan said in a filing in San Francisco federal court that Meta is demanding confidential business information about eBay’s privacy policies, data retention and other topics that are not relevant to the FTC’s monopoly claims.

The subpoena fight is the latest flashpoint in Meta’s campaign to squeeze information from other technology and social media companies in advance of a possible trial next year against the FTC.

Meta has faced some resistance from other companies that said its demands for information were too broad or invasive. In November, a judge ruled Sequoia Capital could not quash subpoenas from Meta seeking information about how the venture capital firm analyzed the photo-sharing site Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp before Meta bought them.

“Meta’s discovery gluttony confirms its request of eBay is not worthy of the burden Meta seeks to impose,” eBay’s lawyers told the California court. “The breadth of the subpoena,” they said, “is alarming.”

A Meta spokesperson said in a statement that the company is “seeking information from companies with which we compete or which we believe have information relating to the FTC’s claims.”

The FTC sued Meta in D.C. federal court in 2020, accusing the company of abusing its power in the “personal social networking services” market. The lawsuit seeks to force Meta to sell the photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging platform WhatsApp.

Meta has denied the FTC’s antitrust allegations. Among other defenses, it disputes the FTC’s asserted “personal social networking services” market.

EBay’s Quinn Emanuel attorneys derided Meta as a “litigant that has completely disregarded the bounds of reason and proportionality” in seeking information from third parties.

A representative from eBay and its attorneys at Quinn Emanuel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The FTC declined to comment.

Lawyers for eBay contend the company doesn’t compete with Meta on social networking but does face off over the Facebook Marketplace e-commerce service.

EBay said it has already disclosed nearly 2,500 pages of internal records to Meta.

But the company said it “should not be forced to divulge further confidential information to a competitor absent a clear showing the information will be relevant and necessary, which is not the case here.”

The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Meta Platforms Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 3:23-mc-80074.

For Meta: Michael Scheinkman of Davis Polk & Wardwell

For eBay: David Grable and Seth Fortenbery of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

For FTC: Daniel Matheson

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella)