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American Antitrust Institute calls for FTC to block Google-DoubleClick

The American Antitrust Institute, an independent non-profit advocacy organization just released its white paper:

Like my Googleopoly analysis from this July and my Senate Judiciary Subcommittee testimony in October, the aai concludes that Google and DoubleClick are indeed direct competitors and that: "the merger presents a relatively straightforward case for challenge under the horizontal and non-horizontal merger guidelines."

  • Moreover, the aai stated: "We also see a risk of significant foreclosure effects from Google's control over DoubleClick's publisher and advertiser tools and integration of those tools with Google's dominant search engine and contextual advertising network."

Bottom line: This merger obviously raises serious anti-competitive issues and I continue to believe it should be blocked, but that does not mean that I still think it will be blocked by the FTC -- I no longer do.

  • That's because the FTC appears to be driven less by what is anti-competitive and more by what the FTC can prove is anti-competitive in court.
    • After going 0-3 recently in court, the FTC appears to be gun-shy on Google-DoubleClick and not itching for even the possibility of another high-profile embarassment.
    • Thus the FTC appears to be pursuing the path of least resistance and is likely to approve the merger in the not too distant merger, despite the legitimate anti-competitive concerns raised.
  • If the FTC does approve the merger, as it is looking increasingly likely that it will, it will be interesting to see how far out on a limb the FTC will be willing to go in dismissing anti-competitive concerns.
    • Will they be clinical and brief in communicating that the merger is approved?
    • Or will they publicly defend the merger and definitively declare nothing anti-competitive will come of it?

While the FTC appears to be wrapping up its investigation and is poised to approve the Google-DoubleClick merger in the not too distant future, the EU competition authority is gearing up to investigate the Google-DoubleClick merger more extensively and seriously than the FTC.

  • The merger still faces significant chance of disapproval from the EU because Google and DoubleClick's dominance in Europe is substantially greater than in the U.S. and because the EU takes threats to competition much more seriously than U.S. authorities.