The US Federal Trade Commission has granted its approval for Google topurchase DoubleClick. Google has apressrelease up with the news (and see also here), and the FTC announcement ishere. The many parties have raisedprivacy issues with thedeal, and the FTC noted this was not germane to its approval: Although interested parties have raised concerns about the proposedacquisition’s impact on consumer privacy, the Commission observed that suchissues are “not unique to Google and DoubleClick,” and “extend to the entireonline advertising marketplace.” The Commissioners further wrote that “as thesole purpose of federal antitrust review of mergers and acquisitions is toidentify and remedy transactions that harm competition,” the FTC lacks thelegal authority to block the transaction on grounds, or require conditions tothis transaction, that do not relate to antitrust. The FTC statement also says that it evaluated three areas in terms ofcompetition. In … [Read more...] about FTC’s Xmas Gift To Google: Approval Of DoubleClick Acquisition
Beyond the iPhone one could convincingly argue that the best thing to happen to mobile advertising in the past year was Google’s announced acquisition of AdMob. It got everyone’s attention — especially the $750 million (stock) price tag. It also single-handedly boosted the profile of all of AdMob’s competitors. As an almost direct response Apple, which was rumored to have been an unsuccessful bidder for AdMob, bought rival ad network Quattro a couple of months later for $275 million. Here’s what I wrote immediately after the “GoogMob” acquisition was announced last year: The fact of Google’s intended acquisition and the price tag ($750 million) help validate mobile (display) advertising in a number of ways. It’s the third largest acquisition price Google has paid, after YouTube and DoubleClick. It also shows how serious Google is about mobile advertising in general. According to an interview with Bloomberg, Google CEO Eric Schmidt … [Read more...] about US Regulators May Be Gearing Up For Google-AdMob Challenge
Google was hoping that the announcement of Apple’s iAd program would help with approval of the AdMob acquisition at the FTC. However that doesn’t seem to be the case; Bloomberg reported on Friday that the FTC seemed poised to try and block the deal: The U.S. Federal Trade Commission staff is urging the filing of an antitrust suit challenging Google Inc.’s $750 million acquisition of AdMob Inc., according to three people familiar with the matter. It will be up to the five-member commission to decide whether to follow the staff’s advice or approve the deal. The people familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity. Peter Kaplan, an FTC spokesman, declined to comment. The FTC staff signaled last month it was leaning toward urging a court challenge when it was disclosed the agency was seeking sworn declarations from Google’s competitors and advertisers. Google PR has been periodically sending bloggers and analysts material critical of that … [Read more...] about The FTC, Google, Apple & United Airlines
It’s been a little while since we’ve done a Search Biz column. So it’s time to dust off the old snark machine and get right into it. First up there’s a very entertaining post on some new, unsealed records from the YouTube-Viacom litigation featuring a range of colorful expletives as both sides insult one another relentlessly. Here’s a select excerpt: Viacom complains that YouTube employees “sneered at rights holders as ‘copyright bastards’ and ‘a-holes.'” Google retorts that Viacom can’t complain about this language, and it quotes numerous Viacom execs to make its point. Sample outbursts include, “fuck you, you Google bastards,” “bastards at Google are harassing me,” and the eloquent “fuck those mother fuckers.” PaidContent has more from the unsealed documents and points to email showing how badly Viacom wanted to own YouTube: MTVN CEO Judy McGrath telling M&A execs: “Help … [Read more...] about Google Vs. Viacom, Pakistan Vs. Facebook, Google Vs. US, Apple Vs. Google & The Russians Are Coming!
Just after Google announced the widely anticipated acquisition of travel data and software company ITA I was told by Google PR that European authorities weren’t going to get a chance to approve or disapprove the deal because ITA’s EU revenues were “too small” to qualify for scrutiny. Yet there are a range of actions and claims against Google still pending in various legal and regulatory venues in Europe. Most recently, for example, French regulators found that Google had “abused its position” in shutting down a French company’s AdWords account. This finding is perhaps representative of a European trend toward more “toughness” against Google and its business practices. In that case Google actually thought it was complying with French law in turning off the advertiser’s account because the product the company was selling contributed to an illegal practice in France, avoiding cameras that try to catch speeding cars. Google is … [Read more...] about EU Regulators Taking “Very Careful” Look At Google
Microsoft has long and openly been involved in opposing some of Google’s high-profile deals and acquisitions. It helped scuttle the proposed Google-Yahoo search deal that paved the way for its own deal with Yahoo. It unsuccessfully opposed the DoubleClick and AdMob acquisitions. It also owns Ciao, one of the complainants that helped launch the recent formal European anti-trust investigation against Google. It’s no surprise then that Microsoft has joined FairSearch.org, a coalition of online travel companies opposing Google’s estimated $700 million deal for travel software provider ITA. The acquisition is currently under Department of Justice review. FairSearch includes many of the major travel sites online: Beyond simply trying to thwart a rival, Microsoft has a very “personal” reason to join the group; Bing Travel (formerly Farecast) is partly powered by ITA software. FairSearch got off to a late start but has gained momentum and visibility in the past … [Read more...] about Microsoft Joins FairSearch Group Opposing Google-ITA Acquisition
In a curious editorial yesterday the NY Times makes a kind of luke-warm argument against Google’s acquisition of travel software company ITA. Here’s the operative paragraph: Regulators must consider that if Google extends its dominance to the business of steering online customers to airlines and travel agencies, it would be in a position to charge more for this service. Without strong competitors to keep it in check, it might offer preferential placement to some airlines or agencies for a fee, or not list offers from companies that didn’t pay up. This could lead to higher costs for agencies, airlines and passengers. The piece uses this sort of hypothetical language to make a soft or “tentative” argument against the acquisition. In the paragraph above the implication is clearly that prices will rise and consumers will be affected. There’s an ambivalent tone throughout the article, reflecting general concern about Google’s market power though the … [Read more...] about NY Times Argues Against Google-ITA Acquisition — Delicately
We’re another step closer to the US Federal Trade Commission launching an expected antitrust investigation of Google. If it does, the FTC will join the EU and Texas in doing broad investigations. But Google’s been examined for antitrust issues many times before this and mostly come through OK. Here’s our comprehensive guide to Google and antitrust actions, over the years. December 2007: FTC Approves Google Purchase Of DoubleClick Perhaps Google’s first real antitrust challenge, it had to fight for approval to purchase DoubleClick. Plenty of opponents lined up against the deal, but Google won FTC approval in December 2007 and later EU approval in March 2008. Some background stories: Nov. 2008: DOJ Helps Kill Google-Yahoo Search Deal In November 2008, Google pulled out of a proposed deal to power Yahoo’s search results, over fears that the US Department Of Justice would file a monopoly suit against the company, if it went ahead. To date, this has been the … [Read more...] about The Definitive Guide To Antitrust Investigations Against Google
Last week in the Chicago Tribune former judge and scholar Robert Bork (who is also a Google advisor) penned an opinion column arguing that by the accepted standards of antitrust law Google has done nothing legally wrong. Bork says, “There is extraordinary competition in the search engine business. Look at the proliferation of what are called vertical search sites that specialize in particular products or services, such as Amazon, Expedia, Kayak and hundreds of others.” Who Competes with Google? This question of who competes with Google — and is the market in fact competitive — is central to the analysis of European and US regulators as the antitrust investigations wind their way through “the system” and potentially to the courts. Google sees many more competitors than do its critics and has been trying for several years to widen the scope of the discussion about “search competition.” If we open the aperture to include vertical sites with … [Read more...] about How “Facebook Search” Could Help Google Escape The Antitrust Noose
Google now faces antitrust investigations on multiple continents. The US FTC recently hired a prominent outside litigator in a sign that it may be preparing to bring an action against the company. But does Google have a “slam dunk” defense against such a case (at least in the US) under the First Amendment of the Constitution? A Preview of Google’s Legal Arguments? Yes says UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh in a new paper-cum-legal brief. The document, which was commissioned by Google, also serves as a kind of template for legal arguments Google might make in a US antitrust case. The release of this paper is no doubt designed to “remind” Congress and the FTC that this law exists and that Google would potentially win an antitrust case on these grounds. The 27 page document (below), replete with case law citations, can be summarized in one sentence: search engine results are editorial judgments, like newspaper content, protected by the First Amendment and thus … [Read more...] about Does The First Amendment Create A Complete Defense For Google Against Antitrust Regulation?