Sounds like Google -- and the rest of the tech industry - can expect a whole lot more antitrust enforcement from the Obama Administration. The New York Times reported that Christine Varney, head of the Justice Department's Antitrust division, gave a speech today (prepared remarks here) signaling a new, aggressive approach to antitrust.
That's a drastic change from the policy under the Bush Administration, which Varney said, “lost sight of an ultimate goal of antitrust laws — the protection of consumer welfare.”
The failing of this approach is that it effectively straitjackets antitrust enforcers and courts from redressing monopolistic abuses, thereby allowing all but the most bold and predatory conduct to go unpunished and undeterred. We must change course and take a new tack.
Furthermore, the idea that the government should go easy on monopolistic companies is flat-out wrong, Varney said.
There is no adequate substitute for a competitive market, particularly during times of economic distress. Vigorous antitrust enforcement must play a significant role in the government’s response to economic crises to ensure that markets remain competitive.
Varney said the retreat from antitrust during the Depression was a major mistake, which enabled companies to engage in price- and wage-fixing.
She didn't mention any industries specifically, but observers clealy expect more attention to be paid to technology, telecom, energy and health care. Her senior aides include a who's who of antitrust litigators, many of whom worked in the case against Microsoft during the Clinton Administration, the Times said.
Now, with Google in ascendance, it appears the search boys will receive more attention than they've been used to. Reports say Microsoft is prodding the government to look into Google's dominance of search, advertising and many other area. Microsoft aside, I'd say more scrutiny would be a very good thing.