The FTC was once eager for the Google probe, successfully pushing for jurisdiction over the Justice Department, with which it shares antitrust enforcement duties. As the investigation picked up steam, the agency enlisted high-profile corporate litigator Beth Wilkinson to help lead the effort.
But even with three Obama nominees on the five-member commission, the FTC ultimately decided against moving ahead with a case.
The FTC has come under withering criticism from opponents of Google, such as Microsoft Corp., Expedia Inc. and Yelp Inc., who suggested the agency had failed to stop what they call anticompetitive behavior by the Internet search giant. Google foes are now pinning their hopes on action by the European Commission, which is negotiating a settlement with Google and enjoys broader antitrust powers.
Former FTC Chairman William Kovacic, now a law professor at George Washington University, said “there’s no shame in walking away from a case that’s not there,” but he said the agency could have been more careful about fueling public expectations of a major crackdown.
Added Allen Grunes, an antitrust lawyer with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, “If there was nothing there, the FTC should have shut this down a long time ago and spared Google the expense and burden of a long investigation.”