Closing its eight-month investigation of the transaction, the FTC has announced that it will not intervene to block Internet search engine Google from acquiring the Internet advertising firm DoubleClick. Despite widespread skepticism about the deal, and urgings by members of Congress (see our December 2007 issue) to proceed with caution, the Commission determined by a 4-1 vote (Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour dissenting) that the proposed acquisition was unlikely to harm competition.
In a statement written by FTC Chair Deborah Platt Majoras, the majority of the commissioners expressed their finding that there is no basis for preventing the transaction from going forward. Specifically, the majority found that Google and DoubleClick are not direct competitors in any relevant market. Google sells advertising on its website and through its ad intermediation product, AdSense. DoubleClick sells third party ad serving products, but does not buy or sell advertising. The transaction, the majority held, is therefore “not likely to cause competitive harm by eliminating significant current competition between Google and DoubleClick.” The Commission found that there was no evidence suggesting that the merger would eliminate any potential competition or allow Google to leverage market power in one market to harm competition in another.
Addressing concerns about online privacy raised by the merger, the majority commented that the FTC lacks authority to block the transaction on such grounds. “The sole purpose of federal antitrust review of merger and acquisitions,” the majority noted “is to identify and remedy transactions that harm competition.”