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FTC slaps down WSJ Google report

FTC chairman Edith Ramirez

The Federal Trade Commission pushed back on reports that the agency walked away from a strong case when it declined to charge Google with antitrust violations for its search and ad practices.

The Wall Street Journal report was based on a previously undisclosed 160-page staff report from a 2012-2013  investigation of Google that was inadvertently released via a FOIA request. In the report, staff recommended that Google be charged with antitrust violations.

“Based on a comprehensive review of the voluminous record and extensive internal analysis, of which the inadvertently disclosed memo is only a fraction, all five commissioners (three Democrats and two Republicans) agreed that there was no legal basis for action with respect to the main focus of the investigation – search,” chairman Edith Ramirez and commissioners Julie Brill and Maureen Ohlhausen said in a statement. All three were on the commission during the period of the Google investigation.

The FTC closed its investigation of Google in 2013 after Google voluntarily agreed to change some of its practices. “As we stated when the investigation was closed, the commission concluded that Google’s search practices were not, ‘on balance,’ demonstrably anticompetive,” the FTC chairwoman and commissioners said.

“Over the last two years, Google has abided by those commitments,” the commissioners said.

In the lengthy statement, the FTC charges that the Wall Street Journal article made a number of “misleading inferences” and questioned the “integrity” of the FTC’s investigation. “Not a single fact is offered to substantiate this misleading narrative,” the FTC said.