I want to share a story of unconstitutional government overreach. It’s one that should make every American wonder if their property could be seized without the protection we all expect: a fair day in court. It’s an effort by a US government agency to seize our company’s intellectual property — 10 years of work by a dedicated team of more than a thousand people.
The story begins 30 years ago. When two high school friends of mine were shot and killed, I started a company in a garage to use technology to prevent unnecessary deaths. Fast-forward to today, my team at Axon Enterprise has equipped over a million people (mostly police officers) with body cameras and non-lethal weapons, saving over 200,000 people from potential death or serious injury. Our mission is to use technology to protect truth, to protect life, and to make policing safer.
In 2018, Axon acquired Vievu, a failing business that was financially insolvent, after its owner couldn’t find another buyer. One month later, the Federal Trade Commission told us it was investigating us for anti-competitive behavior.
I could explain the details of how, even after the acquisition, we lost almost 50 deals to ten different competitors that combined are more than ten times Axon’s size. I could tell you that the Vievu technology we acquired was so un-competitive that it suffered security flaws, data-loss, and even safety issues that caused the cameras to burst into flames.
But this really isn’t about anti-trust law nor even the details of the acquisition. Those are facts that I’m happy to explain in court. This is about the FTC denying us the chance to share our case in a fair forum. It’s about the FTC robbing me and my company of a basic right every American is granted by the Constitution: the right to a fair day in court, with due process and equal protection under the law.
Last week, the FTC demanded not only that we undo the Vievu acquisition, but that we give them a “blank check” to stand up a complete “clone” of our camera and digital evidence management business. We also had to provide access to all of our resources, including intellectual property and customer relationships we’ve built over 10 years.
If we said no, they would sue us in a biased proceeding. Here’s the FTC’s process, in brief: they sue you in an “administrative proceeding” that they oversee, one in which the administrative law judge is an FTC employee and sets the rules. If you successfully defend yourself, the FTC staff can appeal the case directly back to the FTC Commissioners—the same people who voted to prosecute you in the first place.
According to a former FTC Commissioner, Joshua Wright: During a 20-year period, “In 100 percent of cases where the administrative law judge ruled in favor of the FTC staff, the Commission affirmed liability; and in 100 percent of the cases in which the administrative law judge found no liability, the Commission reversed. This is a strong sign of an unhealthy and biased institutional process.”
Today, my company, Axon, is suing the FTC, asking a federal court to find that the biased process of the FTC is unconstitutional. If you care about justice and want to decide for yourself, I encourage you to read our legal complaint here. With the Constitution on our side, we will not give up until we get what every American agrees is a basic right: a fair day in court.