Google’s future depends on Trump’s FTC pick

Google’s future depends on Trump’s FTC pick

By Josh Kosman February 17, 2017 | 10:19pm

Alphabet believes it has a lot riding on who President Trump picks to lead the Federal Trade Commission, several sources close to the situation told The Post.

The federal regulator has the power to investigate antitrust issues and could be a thorn in the side of the tech giant.

For example, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes — on Trump’s short list of possible FTC leaders — likely would open a probe into whether Alphabet improperly pressured mobile phone makers to install Google apps on their phones, sources said.

The FTC, when conducting an investigation into Google that closed in January 2013, never looked deeply into that issue, two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation said.

A year ago, Reyes, citing new information and developments that became available since the FTC closed its probe, wrote a letter to the FTC encouraging it to open a new Alphabet probe.

Meanwhile, interim FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhaussen — the other possible Trump pick to lead the agency — was an FTC commissioner when the regulator voted to close the Google investigation, public records show.

“It is pretty hard for her to be seen as anti-Google at this point,” said a source who happens to support Reyes.

Reyes does have his supporters. They include AT&T, Comcast, Oracle and Yelp, sources familiar with the situation said.

Not surprisingly, Alphabet would like to see Ohlhausen get the FTC job, according to a source close to the search giant.

It would also be happy if longer-shot candidate Josh Wright was named, sources said.

Ohlhausen in recent weeks has shown she wants the position. On Thursday, she named Tad Lipsky — a member of President Trump’s FTC transition team — to be the acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition.

The move would please the administration, a source said.

Reyes is very interested in the job, a spokesperson offered on Friday.

He has already been vetted for the position, a person familiar with the matter said.

If the FTC investigated Alphabet over Android the worst likely outcome for Alphabet would be the FTC requiring it to change its conduct, a source close to the FTC said.

The European Commission is presently investigating Alphabet over Android, and if it finds Alphabet guilty will impose fines, the source said.

Close White House adviser and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, in his 2014 book, “Zero to One,” calls Google a monopoly.

Thiel was interviewing candidates for anti-trust positions.

Alphabet declined comment.


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