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Is Justice Department Ready to Sue Google?

The news that the Justice Department has hired a well-known antitrust expert to review the proposed Google-Yahoo advertising partnership has set off speculation that the government is girding to take legal action against the tech colossus.

But what exactly does the hiring of Sandy Litvack mean?

According to sources close to the investigation, Justice Department officials on Monday told the parties involved, "Don't read anything into this."

Litvack, a former Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, left Hogan & Hartson on Friday to join the Justice Department.

Such a high-profile hiring led many in the antitrust arena to conclude that the government is getting ready for litigation against Google, the dominant player in Internet search advertising, one of the single richest sources of Web revenue. The rising market dominance of Google has led many to compare it to Microsoft of the '90s, and if the Justice Department is preparing to sue Google as it did Microsoft, the case is likely to reverberate throughout the nascent Web world.

But the Justice Department isn't commenting, and neither is Litvack.

UPDATE: Yahoo officials respond

"Since we announced this business arrangement to strengthen our ability to compete in the market -- including fiercely competing with Google -- there has been rampant speculation about the deal. Throughout the voluntary 100-day review period, we have had a constant and productive dialogue with the Justice Department. It would be premature to suggest anything as this deal has yet to be implemented.

"We have been informed that the Justice Department, as they sometimes do, is seeking advice from an outside consultant, but that we should read nothing into that fact. We remain confident that the deal is lawful and that when the federal and state regulators with whom we have been working see it in action, they will find it to be pro-competitive and good for the marketplace."

By Peter Whoriskey  |  September 9, 2008; 12:35 PM ET  | Category:  Peter Whoriskey
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Posted by: pj | September 9, 2008 1:42 PM

Why not provide the information about GOOGLE.We do not know what's google's preparation for this ligigation.

Posted by: ruth | September 10, 2008 8:16 PM

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