FTC Hires High-Profile Lawyer to Investigate Google

Dennis Faas's picture

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has hired a high-profile lawyer to work on its antitrust investigation into Google's search activity. The hiring may signal FTC expectations the probe will result in a major court case.

The FTC has its own in-house legal team, and rarely hires an outside lawyer for such work. It has reportedly happened just twice in the past decade.

Ironically, one of the more memorable times the FTC hired outside legal help was in the late 1990s, when the agency took legal action against Microsoft over claims it exploited its dominance of the PC market.

The new hire this time round is Beth A. Wilkinson. She has previously worked for the Justice Department and a number of private clients.

The New York Times reports Ms. Wilkinson has taken on about 40 major cases in her career, and has chalked up a 100% success rate. In one previous case she successfully prosecuted Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. (Source: nytimes.com)

Major Court Case Just One Possibility

The investigation Wilkinson will be joining involves Google's domination of the US online search market.

Reportedly, the FTC wants to find out whether there is any truth to claims that search results presented by Google are biased towards its own products and services, and against competitive offerings from its rivals. (Source: mashable.com)

If this turns out to be the finding, it would represent significant evidence of anti-competitive practice.

Dominance Plus Exploitation Equals Trouble

Dominating a market isn't illegal in itself, nor is a search engine company choosing whatever means it likes to decide its search results rankings.

However, the combination of the two practices could create an illegal situation, possibly revealing that Google unfairly exploits its market-leading position.

Proving a case against Google will be tough, say observers. Ms. Wilkinson and the rest of the FTC team must first prove that Google's huge market share really is a problem.

As a defense, Google has argued there are no important barriers to its competitors in the field of online search.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet