So when is Parker Brothers going to rename Park Place Google Place, and Boardwalk Applewalk, right?
In your latest Silicon Valley monopoly update, Google CEO Eric Schmidt steps off the Apple board under heat from antitrust regulators. The FTC had been probing whether Schmidt’s role on the board violated the rarely-enforced section 8 of the Clayton Act, which prohibits competitors from sitting on each other’s boards. That’s to prevent them from fixing prices or dividing up the market.
At first Schmidt was defiant, saying Google and Apple’s products didn’t overlap enough for the two to be competitors. But with the introduction of Chrome OS, Google’s new operating system, the two now compete on phones (iPhone and Google Android) on browsers (Chrome and Safari) and operating systems.
Legal Pad called up Sam Miller, the veteran antitrust lawyer at Sidley Austin, to get his take. The only thing that surprised Miller about the resignation was that it didn’t come sooner.
We are shocked, shocked to find the appearance of conflict … after the jump.
“It’s clear that Apple and Google are entering into markets where they each face competition with each other,” he said on Monday.
Miller said the interlocking director problem is uncommon, because the lawyers usually prevent this sort of thing (ahem, Google and Apple in-house departments). “It hasn’t come up that often because companies and their legal counsels can recognize a potential problem,” Miller said.
Apple sort of halfway acknowledged the problem in a statement from overlord Steve Jobs on its website:
“Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple’s Board.”
And the FTC’s said Bureau of Competition Director Richard Feinstein had this to say:
“We have been investigating the Google/Apple interlocking directorates issue for some time and commend them for recognizing that sharing directors raises competitive issues, as Google and Apple increasingly compete with each other … We will continue to investigate remaining interlocking directorates between the companies.”
And in other Googlopoly news, the French, Wired editor Chris Anderson, and Janis Joplin are apparently of like minds: Freedom is just another word for antitrust problems, they say. A French map company that charges for its services is suing Google, saying the company’s free Google Maps offering is just a wicked plan to gain market control by undercutting on price. Our previous post on the fight between Anderson and Google over whether the search engine is in the business of predatory pricing, as it’s called, is right here.
— Zusha Elinson