Former FCC official Blair Levin, now an analyst at Stifel Nicholas, thinks that the hire of former DOJ antitrust head Sanford Litvack means they’re actually going to litigate to stop Google’s search deal with Yahoo.
“The hiring of a lawyer with this kind of background is far more rare, and, in our memory, the times when this has happened the Department brought a case,” Levin wrote in a research note Tuesday.
Google (GOOG) has said it would hold off on implementing the deal until Oct. 1 to give the DOJ time to examine it, but Levin says moving forward on that date would be risky “if they are getting signals that the agency has serious concerns, even if it has not yet reached a final decision.”
The good news for Google is that Levin believes the DOJ is interested in the Google-Yahoo search deal alone, and doesn’t have a broader antitrust beef against the search giant as it attempts to make inroads into other forms of advertising. And, as he notes, the search deal means a lot to Yahoo (YHOO) and almost nothing to Google. In fact, Google’s main goal is already achieved: keeping Yahoo out of the hands of Microsoft (MSFT).
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