Evidence Google Doesn't Take Antitrust Enforcement Seriously

Two top Google executives responsible for Google's corporate acquisitions unwittingly made it clear recently that Google, as a corporate entity, does not take the risk of antitrust enforcement very seriously.

First, Marcella Butler, Google's Senior Director, Corporate Development, M&A Operations and Integration, ”who manages how new firms are integrated into Google" recently told Slate.com: “We do not slow down our integration efforts at all during that time” i.e. during a DOJ antitrust review of a major transaction.

Such a surprisingly blanket absolute statement from a Google insider who is intimately familiar with how Google actually operates during DOJ merger antitrust reviews, at a minimum raises concerns with antitrust authorities about Google's respect for, and compliance with, antitrust law.

  • Under Section 7a of the Clayton Antitrust Act and the Hart-Scott-Rodino merger review process, "gun jumping" -- substantive merger integration activities in advance of Government merger clearance -- is prohibited.

If Google's relevant executives and culture do not respect, or are unaware of the law enforcement boundaries relevant to their particular business area, like "gun jumping" in an antitrust merger review, it raises questions about whether the appropriate Google executives responsible for abiding by other antitrust enforcement concerns are indeed abiding by their commitments:

  1. DOJ's (and the EU's) admonition to Google-Motorola to not anti-competitively abuse standards essential patents;
  2. The DOJ-Google-ITA Consent Decree;
  3. The Google anti-poaching collusion Consent Decree;
  4. The DOJ-Google Non-Prosecution Agreement for knowingly promoting Illegal prescription drug imports; and
  5. The FTC's Google-Buzz privacy enforcement Consent Agreement.

Second, in the same Slate article about Google's M&A approach, David Lawlee, Google's Head of Acquisitions Department stated: “AdMob has helped Google make a killing in mobile ads.

This frank public admission of how much AdMob has helped Google dominate mobile ads is highly relevant to the FTC's approval of Google-AdMob, because the FTC over-ruled FTC staff prosecutors who recommended the FTC block the merger as anti-competitive, and because Google in the merger-review process represented that the acquisition of AdMob would not be anti-competitive.

Given that history and given the FTC is now engaged in a broad antitrust investigation of Google, Mr. Lawlee's problematic boasting draws unwanted attention to market facts about Google's rapidly spreading dominance since the FTC approved Google-AdMob. Google now commands:

In approving Google-AdMob, the FTC promised to: "continue to monitor the mobile marketplace to ensure a competitive environment and to protect the interests of consumers.”

In sum, the recent quotes above are additional contemporaneous evidence that "Google's leadership does not care terribly much about precedent or law," per a top Google lawyer's admission in Stephen Levy’s 2011 book In The Plex. Leaders set the tone and standards for their organization. Thus, antitrust (and privacy) authorities need to be especially cognizant and vigilant that Google's long established public track record is one that has not been particularly respectful of the rule of law -- around the world.