September 30, 2023

an influential advisor to Amazon Sellers on Monday admitted to bribing employees of the e-commerce giant to help their customers increase sales and get their suspended accounts reinstated.

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Ephraim “Ed” Rosenberg wrote in a LinkedIn post that he will plead guilty in federal court to a criminal charge that stems from a 2020 indictment accusing six people of giving sellers on Amazon’s third-party marketplace an unfair competitive advantage. was accused of plotting. Four of the defendants have already pleaded guilty, including a former Amazon employee who was sentenced to 10 months in prison last year.

Rosenberg, who is based in Brooklyn, is a well-known figure in the world of Amazon third-party sellers. He runs a consultancy business advising entrepreneurs how to sell products on online marketplaces, and navigate unexpected issues with their Amazon account. Rosenberg’s Facebook group for sellers, ASGTG, has more than 68,000 members, and hosts a popular conference for sellers each year.

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“For a time, a few years ago, I began to obtain and use Amazon’s internal annotations — Amazon’s private property — to learn the reasons for sellers’ suspensions, in order to help reinstate them if possible. For,” wrote Rosenberg, who is due to appear in US District Court in Seattle on March 30 for a change of plea hearing, according to court records. “On some occasions, I paid bribes, both directly and indirectly, to Amazon employees to obtain annotations and restore suspended accounts. These actions were against the law.”

As recently as last month, in LinkedIn messages to CNBC, Rosenberg denied prosecutors’ allegations, calling the case a “conspiracy” and claiming he was framed. On Monday, Rosenberg said he “regretted” his involvement in the bribery scheme.

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“During the course of this case, I have made few public statements regarding this prosecution and indictment,” Rosenberg said. “Those statements are not accurate and I refute those statements. The statement I am making now is accurate and true and I will stand by it.”

Since at least 2017, prosecutors allege that Rosenberg and other consultants allegedly bribed Amazon employees to leak information about the company’s search and ranking algorithms and to share confidential data on its competition in the marketplace. . In total, the individuals allegedly paid $100,000 worth of bribes to employees and took advantage of more than $100 million in competitive advantages, the DOJ said.

In 2018, Amazon fired four employees in India who were allegedly involved in a bribery scheme.

Previously unsealed court documents say Rosenberg allegedly sent “hidden threats” to an Amazon employee at the company’s Seattle headquarters as part of a bribery scheme. Bloomberg informed of. According to Bloomberg, the documents also detailed the defendants’ efforts to avoid detection by authorities, including allegedly stuffing a llama-sized ottoman with cash as a bribe.

Rosenberg has become part of a larger industry in helping sellers navigate the complexities and chaos of the Amazon marketplace, where some 2 million sellers are responsible for more than half the goods sold on the site. Amazon launched its online marketplace in 2000, allowing everyone from established brands to mom-and-pop shops to sell products.

While the marketplace has helped Amazon generate tens of billions of dollars in sales, it has also become a notorious host for counterfeit, unsafe and expired goods. Behind the scenes, scammers have resorted to illegal tactics for years to squash competitors, artificially boost their listings or bypass Amazon’s marketplace rules.

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Amazon has said it invests hundreds of millions of dollars a year to ensure products are safe and compliant. to make it available Providing internal data by employees to sellers violates Amazon’s Seller Policies and Code of Conduct.

Rosenberg said the attempt to bribe Amazon employees is “wrong and criminal.”

“No one should bribe Amazon employees to provide Amazon with personal information,” Rosenberg wrote on Monday. “If it is clear that inside information has been illegally leaked, no one should have access to it. Nor should any Amazon employees be paid for any other special favor in connection with a seller’s account. “

An attorney for Rosenberg declined to comment.

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement that it has systems in place to detect suspicious behavior and teams that work to stop prohibited activity on the marketplace.

“Amazon is grateful to be working with federal authorities to fully pursue this matter,” the spokesperson said. “There is no room for fraud at Amazon, and we will continue to hold bad actors accountable.”

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