Google: We’ll Pass on the Antitrust Hearing, But if You’ve Got a Dinner Gala Coming Up, Let Us Know

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    You’d think that with Google’s growing influence in Washington and its close ties to the Obama administration, the company would find it relatively easy to make its leadership available for a Senate subcommittee hearing — particularly one focused on its growing market power. Not so.

    Google has reportedly refused to send either CEO Larry Page or Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to an upcoming Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing.

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    This despite the unspoken threat of subpoena from the chairman, Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl and his colleague Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

    “Google is the preeminent provider of Internet search, and a hearing on this important topic would be incomplete without the direct perspective and views from one of Google’s top executives, each of whom has played a prominent role at the company throughout the last decade,” Kohl and Lee wrote in a June 10 letter to Page and Schmidt, adding that they “would very much prefer to work this out by agreement rather than needing to resort to more formal procedures.”

    “More formal procedures,” of course, being the aforementioned subpoena.

    Interesting to see Google rebuff the subcommittee like this when the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly preparing an investigation of the company and the Department of Justice is reviewing its $400 million purchase of Admeld. That said, the company claims it will send someone. Said a spokesperson, “We’re in talks with the subcommittee, and we’ll send them the executive who can best answer their questions.”

    We’ll have to see how that response plays with the subcommittee. Can’t imagine it will go over too well, though, when Schmidt finds it so easy to make time for things like gala White House state dinners.

    As John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, asked, “How is it that Eric Schmidt has the time to hobnob at a gala White House State Dinner for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but cannot find time to answer important questions from a Senate committee. What are Page and Schmidt afraid of? What do they have to hide?”

    Good questions. Someone should subpoena them to find out the answers.

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