1

When a US Senator or Congressperson poses a question to a private company about some behavior or action of the company, does that carry any legal weight?

In other words,

  • is the company required to answer?

  • if the result is "bad" (however that is defined), can the Senator or Congressperson impose any penalty? Is it all just "showboating" on the part of the politician?

3

When a US Senator or Congressperson poses a question to a private company about some behavior or action of the company, does that carry any legal weight? In other words, (a) is the company required to answer? and (b) if the result is "bad" (however that is defined), can the Senator or Congressperson impose any penalty. Is it all just "showboating" on the part of the politician?

Individual members of Congress cannot compel a company to testify, although a failure to respond might result in legislation being adopted in a way contrary to the preferences of the person being asked, while a response might influence legislation in a manner that the person being asked likes.

Congressional committees have subpoena power which if disregarded may be enforced in federal district courts on pain of the non-responsive person being held in contempt of court, which is essentially equivalent to the power of a court to subpoena someone's testimony.

  • Thanks. I am just curious because of news about congresspeople sending letters to companies (like Apple recently about their iPhone slow-downs). – Ralph Jan 12 '18 at 13:48
  • 1
    @Ralph Usually, compulsion isn't necessary. For the same reason, ignoring the inquiries of reporters with wide readership can be a bad PR move. – ohwilleke Jan 12 '18 at 14:09

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