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Beth Wilkinson, a former federal prosecutor, is the first private litigator to handle a major FTC case in five years
The New York Times reports that the Federal Trade Commission said today it had hired outside counsel to proceed with an antitrust investigation of Google.
The news was a sign that the inquiry had progressed out of the preliminary stages, the newspaper said.
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Reuters reports that FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz told reporters in San Francisco today that the regulatory agency had hired Beth Wilkinson of the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, who is to start work on Monday.
According to The San Jose Mercury News, Wilkinson, an Army veteran, has a reputation as a tough litigator. As a federal prosecutor, she obtained the death penalty for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was put to death in 2001.
The Times said a Google spokeswoman had no immediate comment. The FTC has been investigating Google’s dominance of the search market for potential antitrust violations for more than a year.
The newspaper said that the hiring of Wilkinson did not necessarily mean the agency would sue Google.
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But The Mercury News quoted San Francisco antitrust lawyer Samuel Miller as saying Wilkinson’s appointment meant the agency was “quite serious about bringing a case against Google.”
"The antitrust authorities don't bring in outside counsel unless they are very serious about bringing a case,” he was quoted as saying.
The Times said the decision marked the first time in five years that the agency had hired an outside litigator for a major case.