Friday, March 20, 2015

WSJ article on FTC investigation of Google

Within a New York Times article on the FTC / Google matter:

Sections of the document were mistakenly released to The Wall Street Journal by the agency as part of a Freedom of Information request. A spokesman for the agency called the release of the documents unfortunate, but declined to respond about their contents. Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the F.T.C. at the time, also declined to comment.


The Washington Post was dismissive:

It is not an implausible hypothesis that lobbying influenced the antitrust prosecution. For example, it is true that around the time of the investigation, Google poured huge amounts of lobbying money into trying to influence the FTC and its congressional overseers. Indeed, when then-Chairman Jon Leibowitz announced the FTC’s decision not to bring suit, he specifically addressed those lobbying efforts and denied that they had an influence. It is generally thought that the pivotal moment in the decision of businesses to lobby antitrust enforcers dates back to the decision by the Clinton administration to bring its antitrust action against Microsoft, which was egged on by Microsoft’s rivals at that time. It is not clear whether in fact that suit was the result of lobbying pressure or not, but the perception has been that it mattered. Whatever the facts in that case, since that time efforts to lobby antitrust authorities have increased dramatically.
Nor is it enough to note that the Federal Trade Commission is an independent agency insulated from political pressure. As evidenced by the FCC’s politically-motivated flip-flop on “net neutrality” regulation, it seems quite clear that independent agencies can be influenced by political pressure from the White House. With respect to the Google antitrust case, however, the decision was unanimous, so it is unlikely that was important.


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