According to recent reports, the antitrust investigation into tech giant Google by the DOJ could move quickly due to the company’s lack of political allies and history of complaints.
CNBC reports that two antitrust lawyers are claiming that once the U.S. Department of Justice makes a formal announcement of its plans to investigate tech giant Google over antitrust violations, the process will probably move much quicker than most would expect. Many have claimed that the Google investigation could take years, as an investigation into Microsoft by the DOJ two decades ago did, but some experts are not so sure.
Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer who was a key figure in the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft, and Rutgers Law School professor Michael A. Carrier have both stated that an investigation into Google by the DOJ will “front-loaded,” meaning that it’s likely to move much faster than the Microsoft case which started in 1992 and was settled in 2001.
Reback discussed whether the Google situation will be similar to the Microsoft one, stating: “Even though this is complicated, I don’t know that it’s going to be that kind of ordeal.” Part of the reason for this is that the FTC already investigated Google in recent years and although the investigation ended with no penalties for the company, it was reported at the time that some FTC officials had concluded in 2012 that Google took part in anti-competitive business tactics.
“If they were starting from scratch, it could take years,” Reback said, “but they (DOJ) now have more information.” Carrier, who specializes in antitrust and IP law, added: “My sense is that the DOJ would really want to make sure that they can find an antitrust violation rather than just an unease that the company is too big.”
The lawyers noted that Google is facing criticism from both sides of the political aisle, giving the company nowhere to run: “I’ve been taking companies to Washington where they’ve complained about Google for a long time and there were politicians blocking it once, but the blockers aren’t there anymore,” Reback said. “I don’t know if it’s the Trump administration that triggered it exactly but it could have been what broke the dam.”
The lawyers stated that it’s likely the investigation will focus on Google’s search and advertising businesses but it will take some time before a federal investigation is officially announced. Carrier stated that investors in Google should definitely be worried, saying: “Any time an actor as powerful as the Department of Justice antitrust division is involved, that is something that investors should take into account because it would be a really big deal if they found a case.”