Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Obama And Antitrust: Not Fit to Print in The New York Times

To the Editor:

"Administration Will Strengthen Antitrust Rules" (news article, May 11) misses the key question of whether this goal will be hindered by any of President Obama's campaign contributors and supporters. The key early test will be Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google and a technology adviser to the President.

Google faces antitrust scrutiny on at least two fronts, according to recent reports. The Google Books class action settlement -- negotiated by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers -- faces a growing chorus of objections from authors, librarians and consumers, and a federal judge has postponed the fairness hearing for four months. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is studying the settlement for alleged violations of the Sherman Act.

In addition, the Attorney General is looking at whether Schmidt's presence on the board of technology competitor Apple runs afoul of the Clayton Act's prohibition against "interlocking directorates."

If Google winds up getting lookaway passes in both scenarios, there will be justifiable skepticism that antitrust division head Christine A. Varney's strong words are being matched by the Administration's deeds.

Irvin Muchnick
Berkeley, Calif., May 11, 2009


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