Yesterday it was reported that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hired an outside prosecutor to potentially bring an antitrust case against Google. The attorney is Beth A. Wilkinson, a partner at the firm of Paul Weiss and a former Justice Department official who is best known for her role in the conviction of the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
The hiring of Wilkinson doesn’t guarantee the US will bring an antitrust case against Google. However as a practical matter it makes the likelihood that much greater, indicating the FTC is quite serious and potentially preparing a case.
The hiring of Wilkinson is being likened to the hiring of attorney David Boies, who successfully led the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft roughly a decade ago. (Interestingly Boies is currently representing Oracle in its patent litigation against Google.)
According to the NY Times Wilkinson has an impressive litigation track record. She has reportedly “brought [ ] 40 major cases in government and private practice and won them all.” She hasn’t lost.
Wilkinson’s hiring could also bring the FTC leverage in constructing a “settlement” with Google to avoid litigation. Google’s legal team will clearly see her as a formidable adversary.
The European Commission is also supposed to decide very soon whether to bring a formal case against Google. My sense has been that the Europeans were closer than the US to litigation against Google. However it’s now quite possible that Google could be defending two antitrust cases on two continents, either later this year or early next.