Google Could Face Subpoenas From FTC and Senate

Google is refusing to offer up their top execs to testify

Google could be facing subpoenas in not one but two government investigations—both the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee and the Federal Trade Commission are threatening to serve the company in the near future.

The Senate subcommittee is planning a hearing on Google’s competitive conduct and wants CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt to testify. But Google is refusing their requests—even after subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl and ranking member Mike Lee sent a letter on June 10 containing what Politico calls a “veiled threat” to issue subpoenas to the executives.

Google said yesterday that it would allow Chief Legal Officer David Drummond to testify instead, but the subcommittee said in the letter that it would “strongly prefer” and warned Google, “We would very much prefer to work this out by agreement rather than needing to resort to more formal procedures.”

A Google spokeswoman told Politico that it is “in talks with the subcommittee” and will “send them the executive who can best answer their questions,” but according to sources, the company informed the subcommittee on Wednesday that neither Page nor Schmidt would appear. Discussions are expected to continue, says Politico—while Kohl and Lee decide whether to issue the subpoenas.

Meanwhile, the FTC is also preparing to serve Google with civil subpoenas as part of “wide-ranging, formal investigation into whether the Internet-search giant has abused its dominance on the Web” that will be the company’s most serious antitrust probe to date in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. The FTC’s five-member panel of commissioners is planning to send out the subpoenas “within days,” and is expected to request information from other companies about their dealings with Google as well.

Sources told the WSJ that the probe will focus on “fundamental issues relating to Google's core search-advertising business,” including whether the search company unfairly directs users to its own network of services instead of those of its rival providers. The FTC has been making informal inquiries into the matter for the past few months, sources said, privately contacting some tech companies and meeting with Google lawyers.