Justice Department hires special prosecutor to probe Google
Published: Tuesday September 9, 2008

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"The Justice Department has quietly hired one of the nation's best-known litigators, former Walt Disney Co. vice chairman Sanford Litvack, for a possible antitrust challenge to Google Inc.'s growing power in advertising," the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

"For weeks, U.S. lawyers have been deposing witnesses and issuing subpoenas for documents to support a challenge to the deal, lawyers close to the review said," according to the paper. "Such efforts don't always mean a case will be brought, however."

But Mr. Litvack was the Justice Department's antitrust chief under President Jimmy Carter, and in several cases, when special counsel were hired by the Justice Department, major investigations ensued. The Departmed hired a special counsel in the landmark antitrust case against Microsoft in 1998, and a second to challenge WorldCom's proposed acquisition of sprint in 2000. The companies abandoned their deal.

"It isn't clear whether a U.S. challenge would target the Google-Yahoo deal alone or take on broader aspects of Google's conduct in the growing online-advertising business," the paper added. "The agreement with Yahoo, announced in June, gives Google, of Mountain View, Calif., the right to sell search and text ads on Yahoo sites, sharing revenue with Yahoo, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif."

"Display and search-based Web advertising, which are dominated by Google, have transformed the media industry. As a result, a federal antitrust case against Google could set new boundaries for Internet competition, much as the Justice Department suit against Microsoft Corp. a decade ago broke ground applying antitrust law to new technologies."

Read the full story here.