Academics Help Google Escape FTC Suit

January 4th, 2013

A very interesting article in the Times about how Google avoided FTC enforcement, with this interesting bit from Herb Hovenkamp.

“The way they managed to escape it is through a barrage of not only political officials but also academics aligned against doing very much in this particular case,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor of antitrust law at the University of Iowa who has worked as a paid adviser to Google in the past. “The first sign of a bad antitrust case is lack of consumer harm, and there just was not any consumer harm emerging in this very long investigation.”

Indeed, one of the academics that received funding from Google is now on the FTC as a Commissioner–my former Professor Josh Wright (congratulations Josh!). Wright will recuse himself from all cases involving Google for two years.

In addition, the late Robert Bork and Greg Sidak wrote a Google-commissioned article supporting Google’s case in the JOurnal of Competition Law & Economics (is this Bork’s last publication?).

And of course, Eugene Volokh wrote a paper commissioned by Google arguing that its search results are protected by the First Amendment.

All of these academics were commissioned by Google to perform work because a possible enforcement action was coming down the pike, and Google wanted to preempt it.

Looks like Google’s strategy worked.