Three members of the Federal Trade Commission say their 2013 decision to close an antitrust investigation into Google was not influenced by the search giant's lobbying efforts and White House connections. The commissioners released their statement in response to a Wall Street Journal report that said Google executives "had a flurry of meetings with top officials" prior to the investigation being dropped.
Published Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal article cited an inadvertently released FTC document in which investigators had concluded that Google's conduct "has resulted -- and will result -- in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets."
In their response issued Wednesday, FTC Chairwomen Edith Ramirez and Commissioners Julie Brill and Maureen K. Ohlhausen said the commission's settlement with Google addressed the concerns identified in that document by obtaining commitments from the search company to change some of its business practices. They added that Google has abided by those commitments for the past two years.
'Lasting Negative Effects'
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Brody Mullins reported Tuesday that Google executives "have visited the White House around 230 times since President Obama took office." Mullins cited visitor logs and e-mails that showed Google Chairman Eric Schmidt met with a senior adviser to the president and Google co-founder Larry Page met with FTC officials prior to the FTC's announcement that it was settling its investigation in Google's alleged anticompetitive practices.
Along with Mullins' report, the Wall Street Journal published part of a 160-page FTC memorandum dated Aug. 8, 2012, that summarized a number of staff findings from the Google investigation. The document was not intended for publication but about half its pages were inadvertently released in response to an open-records request.
A conclusion page in the memorandum noted that it found "Google has strengthened its monopolies over search and search advertising through anticompetitive means, and has forestalled competitors' and would-be competitors' ability to challenge those monopolies, and this will have lasting negative effects on consumer welfare."
The FTC announced in early January 2013 that commissioners had voted 5-0 to close the investigation into Google's search practices.
"It is unusual for White House aides to talk with officials at a company or agency about law-enforcement matters involving the company or agency," Mullins said in the article. "Officials in the Justice Department's Antitrust Division typically don't meet with the White House during major investigations."
A 'Misleading Narrative'
The FTC said in 2013 that its staff conducted numerous interviews and hearings and reviewed more than 9 million pages of documents from Google and other relevant parties during its investigation.
It concluded that "the introduction of Universal Search, as well as additional changes made to Google's search algorithms -- even those that may have had the effect of harming individual competitors -- could be plausibly justified as innovations that improved Google's product and the experience of its users. It therefore has chosen to close the investigation."
Tuesday's statement from Ramirez, Brill and Ohlhausen added, "Contrary to recent press reports, the commission's decision on the search allegations was in accord with the recommendations of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Economics, and Office of General Counsel."
The commissioners also said this week's Wall Street Journal report provided a "misleading narrative" questioning the integrity of the FTC's investigation.
"Based on a comprehensive review of the voluminous record and extensive internal analysis, of which the inadvertently disclosed memo is only a fraction, all five Commissioners (three Democrats and two Republicans) agreed that there was no legal basis for action with respect to the main focus of the investigation -- search," they said. "As we stated when the investigation was closed, the commission concluded that Google's search practices were not, 'on balance, demonstrably anticompetitive.' "
Posted: 2015-03-31 @ 8:30am PT
Google is a LIAR! All are undoubtedly corruption activities, Google wouldn't do all these just for the opportunities of being heard. It corrupted a California Court, and will never able to provide its side of story.
Posted: 2015-03-27 @ 6:36am PT
I smell a rat! Who sends their company officials to the White House 230 times for consul with politicos? Those bastards are up to no good.