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Part I: FTC 4-1 approval of Google merger; the FTC gerrymandered its market definition...
Submitted by Scott Cleland on Thu, 2007-12-20 11:31
To provide some timely analysis after quickly reading the FTC's 4-1 approval of the Google-DoubleClick merger let me provide some quick and important take aways:
The most important line in the FTC's statement was: "the companies are not direct competitors in any relevant antitrust market, eliminating the need for further analysis."
First, the FTC majority clearly did not want to risk losing in court again so the FTC effectively gerrymandered a tortured market definition that essentially granted Google a "get out of antitrust jail free card" for the purposes of this merger review.
Second, Google is now on antitrust notice. The majority said: "We want to be clear, however, that we will closely watch these markets and, should Google engage in unlawful tying or other anti-competitive conduct, the Commission intends to act quickly."
Third, while the FTC majority clearly wanted to duck these potential problems for now, it is clear from Commissioner Harbour's detailed and powerful dissent, Commissioner Leibowitz' statement and the majority's statement that they will "closely watch these markets", that there are very serious potential anti-competitive problems at play here.
In short, the FTC between the lines was saying that they don't feel confident looking forward much and acknowledging that the courts won't allow them much leeway in forward-looking judgments.