The European Commission has accused Facebook of providing “incorrect or misleading information” in the run-up to its $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014. Information requested by the Commission is used to vet large mergers and takeovers, aiming to find out if the resulting business would be anti-competitive. If Facebook cannot provide a decent excuse for misleading the Commission before January 31st it could be fined up to $179 million.
Facebook could be fined — but the acquisition won’t be overturned
The Commission does not believe that sharing this data is anti-competitive, as there are plenty of other companies offering similar services. But, that doesn’t excuse providing inaccurate data. “Companies are obliged to give the Commission accurate information during merger investigations,” said commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a press statement. “In this specific case, the Commission's preliminary view is that Facebook gave us incorrect or misleading information during the investigation into its acquisition of WhatsApp.”
Facebook now has until January 31st to respond to the Commission’s charges. If it can’t provide adequate reasoning for its actions, it faces a fine of up to 1 percent of its global annual Facebook's turnover. Based on the company’s 2015 revenue, that could mean as much as $179 million.
Update December 20th, 7:37AM ET: Updated with Facebook’s statement.