Jeff Bezos is stepping down as CEO of Amazon.com at a time when controversy is swirling around him. As Politico notes, not only have critics been increasingly questioning Amazon's wages and treatment of its workers—and contrasting those with the massive profits the company is bringing in amid the coronavirus pandemic—but in Washington, DC, Amazon is under "unprecedented scrutiny." There are antitrust investigations and criticism of the company's tax rate; there's scrutiny of possible anti-competitive practices and Amazon's apparent ability to drive competitors out of business; there are questions over whether the company's cloud division, Amazon Web Services (AWS), acts as too much of a "gatekeeper" for other companies that want to access the world wide web; there's a court battle involving AWS over a multibillion-dollar cloud contract the Pentagon handed to Microsoft; there are $61.7 million in tips withheld from delivery drivers that the FTC is forcing Amazon to reimburse.
And that's just in the US: In Europe, regulators have charged Amazon with misuse of data from its third-party sellers, and is also investigating the company for potential anti-competitive practices. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's take on the situation: "Bezos did not 'quit,'" he tweeted. "He is becoming the Executive Chair of the Amazon Board. He will be even more powerful while avoiding the media scrutiny. More power. Less accountability." A post at Vox by Theodore Schleifer comes to a similar conclusion. "The story of Jeff Bezos is about to shift abruptly," he writes. "The billionaire’s decisions will still have profound implications across this planet and maybe others. But that power will mutate from the corporate to the individual—and from the obvious to the more hidden." And MarketWatch notes that, at least initially, not much is likely to change even at Amazon with Bezos' transition as he "holds on to power behind the scenes." (If you're more interested in takeaways from Amazon's fourth-quarter earnings call, Forbes has them.)