Amazon and Future Group have been at loggerheads over the future of retail major for quite some time now. The matter that has been in and out of arbitrations and high courts, was presented to the Supreme Court (SC) today (November 23). But, the apex court has deferred the hearing to December 8, due to inconvenience caused by the voluminous documents placed on record by the parties.
The bench, led by CJI NV Ramana and Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli, pointed out that Amazon and Future have submitted 21 volumes in the same case, causing unnecessary inconvenience as documents are repeated.
During the hearing, Justice Ramana said, “This is the problem if you file 21 volumes in the same case. I have been repeatedly saying unnecessary things, repetition of documents. What is the point of filing so many volumes? Is it only to harass [the] judges?”
The CJI further asked both sides in the matter to sit with each other and file a convenience compilation with a minimum number of pages. “Parties directed to file compilation with a minimum number of documents. All parties agree to exchange documents and file one common compilation. Matter to be taken up on 8th December. Documents to be fully indexed for this court.”
Before the conclusion of the hearing, Amazon told SC that it challenged the recent order passed by the Delhi High Court directing CCI to give ruling on a plea filed by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) within two weeks. For this, the SC has restrained all authorities — NCLT, CCI, SEBI, Delhi HC, from filing a final ruling on the matter for four weeks.
Amid the altercation, Future Group employees have reportedly also written to the SC seeking the sale of Future to Reliance. Citing risk to 27K jobs, if the deal doesn’t come through, the employees have petitioned with the SC, against Amazon, saying their livelihoods were at stake.
The petition will also be heard on December 8.
Amazon Vs Future: What’s The Story
The move by Future Group employees writing to SC comes shortly after Future Retail Ltd (FRL) Independent Directors wrote letters to the CCI disclosing an email trail citing Amazon always wanted to invest in FRL, but couldn’t, due to FDI restrictions on retail entities.
Later, Future Group’s Kishore Biyani and Amazon’s legal head Rakesh Bakshi, set up an out of the court settlement. Amazon reportedly demanded that Future Group take down its application to CCI against Amazon’s misrepresentation of the 2019 deal.
It is also said to have demanded a ‘generous’ compensation. However, the outcome was inconclusive as Future Group declined the pre-conditions for a settlement process without seeing a definitive agreement.
The email between Rakesh Bakshi and Jeff Bezos revealed the startling details on how Amazon viewed and planned to enforce its agreements, the letter claimed. FRL’s independent directors alleged that Bakshi’s email stated that due to foreign investment policy restrictions, Amazon will use a “twin-entity investment” structure to invest in FCPL — simultaneously acquiring a stake in FRL.
The directors stated in the letter that Amazon “concealed facts, made misrepresentations to the CCI to seek approval for its investment in Future Coupons, a promoter holding company.” They accused Amazon of flouting India’s FDI and FEMA rules.
In September 2019, Amazon informed the CCI that it had proposed to acquire 49% stakes in Future Coupons. The deal had reportedly also mentioned a list of 30 entities with whom the Future Coupons could not transact, including Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited.
The restraint was on Future Coupons which owns 7.3% shares in Future Retail. Through this transaction, Amazon had also managed to acquire around a 3.58% stake in Future Retail — the business that is set to be acquired by Reliance Retail.
Following the deal announcement between FRL and Reliance Retail, began an intensive battle between Future Group and Amazon. Escalating the matter from the SIAC to Delhi HC, now, a decision by the Supreme Court is pending over a petition filed by the US-based ecommerce major.
Aiming to bolster their case against Amazon, FRL seeks to revoke the 2019 deal between the US ecommerce major and Future Coupons. This will eventually lead to making void Amazon’s case against Future Group.
Not only will it result in the cancellation of CCI approvals given for Amazon’s all transactions with Future Group, but it will also commensurate fines and penalties by ED and other enforcement bodies.