FTC Members Defend Closing Google Antitrust Probe

Three members of the Federal Trade Commission say their 2013 decision to close an antitrust investigation into Google was not influenced by the search giant's lobbying efforts and White House connections. The commissioners released their statement in response to a Wall Street Journal report that said Google executives "had a flurry of meetings with top officials" prior to the investigation being dropped.

Published Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal article cited an inadvertently released FTC document in which investigators had concluded that Google's conduct "has resulted -- and will result -- in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets."

In their response issued Wednesday, FTC Chairwomen Edith Ramirez and Commissioners Julie Brill and Maureen K. Ohlhausen said the commission's settlement with Google addressed the concerns identified in that document by obtaining commitments from the search company to change some of its business practices. They added that Google has abided by those commitments for the past two years.

'Lasting Negative Effects'

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Brody Mullins reported Tuesday that Google executives "have visited the White House around 230 times since President Obama took office." Mullins cited visitor logs and e-mails that showed Google Chairman Eric Schmidt met with a senior adviser to the president and Google co-founder Larry Page met with FTC officials prior to the FTC's announcement that it was settling its investigation in Google's alleged anticompetitive practices.

Along with Mullins' report, the Wall Street Journal published part of a 160-page FTC memorandum dated Aug. 8, 2012, that summarized a number of staff findings from the Google investigation. The document was not intended for publication but about half its pages were inadvertently released in response to an open-records request.

A conclusion page in the memorandum noted that it found "Google has strengthened...

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