Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been involved in a flurry of lawsuits in several countries in recent years, mainly focused on its near-ubiquitous Search engine. So far, Google Inc. (GOOG) has not been dealing much with U.S. authorities over search other than some initial probes. But with a recent move at the Federal Trade Commission, there could be some movement on the legal front.
There is a recent report that the FTC has just hired a prominent contract economist who specializes in antitrust issues, which may be a primary step toward the federal regulatory body investigating Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) about possible anti-competitive practices. Richard Gilbert, a professor at the University of California in Berkeley who had previously been the top economist in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, played a significant role in the United States v. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) case and in the failed merger between DirecTV and EchoStar.
“It’s a precaution they would be taking in the case of litigation. You would hire an external economist to serve as your expert,” former FTC Chairman Bill Kovacic said. “If you want to show credibility or commitment to the matter, you do the things to indicate to the other side you are ready to proceed.”
The move may signal that the FTC may be ready to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) for its anti-competitive practices, after the commission has been investigating whether Google Inc. has been tweaking its search results to place its own properties higher in the results, and whether it has been charging more money to other advertisers.
This will be something that investors like billionaire fund manager Julian Robertson of Tiger Management will certainly be watching closely. Will an impending FTC lawsuit be figured into the new stock price of Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG)?