Politics

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
antitrust, ethics, ftc, lobbyists, randall long

Companies:
google, microsoft



Microsoft Hires Key Anti-Google FTC Lawyer To Be Its New Chief Anti-Google Lobbyist

from the paying-a-little-too-much-attention-to-the-competition dept

There's something a little... disturbing about how gleefully Microsoft seems to want to sic antitrust regulators on Google. Given that the company went through its own long antitrust battle, you'd think that it would know better than to continually invoke the government's antitrust legal beagles against others. Instead, it seems to have taken the position that if it had to go through the antitrust rollers for so long, why shouldn't other successful companies. We've noted in the past Microsoft's fingerprints showing up on bizarre and silly antitrust claims against Google -- which have so far gone nowhere -- but Microsoft seems really intent on saddling Google with a long and costly antitrust battle. I guess Microsoft thinks it's easier to fight Google that way than, you know, actually innovating and competing in the marketplace. It's pretty sad just how anti-innovation these efforts are.

Either way, Microsoft appears to be stepping up its "saddle Google with antitrust charges" battle by hiring Randall Long from the FTC. Long was the key "anti-Google" lawyer within the FTC, who led multiple antitrust investigations into Google, and recommended that the FTC block Google's acquisition of AdMob (something he was outvoted on). Microsoft doesn't even seem to want to hide the fact that his role will be to lobby politicians in DC to hit Google with antitrust charges. The WSJ's report on the hiring is pretty explicit:
As part of his new job, Mr. Long will likely continue those efforts before the FTC and other agencies, a person familiar with the matter said.
Of course, if Long actually follows the rules, he shouldn't be allowed to do anything concerning any FTC investigations into Google for quite some time. The ethics rules are pretty clear -- even barring "behind-the-scenes" help on such investigations:
Except as provided in this section, or otherwise specifically authorized by the Commission, no former member or employee (“former employee” or “employee”) of the Commission may communicate to or appear before the Commission, as attorney or counsel, or otherwise assist or advise behind-the-scenes, regarding a formal or informal proceeding or investigation...
That certainly suggests that Long cannot and should not "continue those efforts before the FTC" for some time. Either way, it's yet another example of the questionable revolving door between government and the private sector, where ex-government officials end up in roles that have a very close connection to their former government role (or vice versa). Even assuming that Long follows all the rules, as I'm sure he intends to do, this kind of thing just looks really bad.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous, 3 Mar 2012 @ 2:10pm

    toothless regulations

    Those rules state this guy could be "suspended, reprimanded, or disbarred" by his buddies and former cow-orkers at the FTC. None of which would prevent him from doing his new job, lobbying. And none of which is likely to happen, anyway. Laws for the rest of us tend to have teeth, but this code is no more likely to cause him problems than what we've seen for bankers.

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