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FTC hires external lawyer to head Google investigation

How serious is the Federal Trade Commission about its look into Google’s business practices? Perhaps more serious than many had initially thought. The FTC has recently brought in an external lawyer to take over control of the investigation, leading some to believe that information already uncovered by the year-old probe might not be entirely favorable to Google’s position that it has done anything wrong or illegal.

The FTC is denying that the addition of former Justice Department prosecutor Beth Wilkinson is a sign that it intends to sue Google. Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said that they were “delighted to have someone of her caliber helping us on such an important matter.”

However Dave Wales, the former FTC director of competition, believes Wilkinson’s involvement hints toward possible issues that would require greater legal action on behalf of the FTC.

“This may not be not a declaration of all-out war, but it’s like things have been ratcheted up to ‘Defcon 4,'” Wales said. “You don’t do something like this unless you think there is a good chance there will be litigation.”

Wilkinson is a legal heavyweight. In addition to having experience in various antitrust law and white-collar cases, she is also responsible for the conviction of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, in 1997.

Google declined to comment on Wilkinson’s appointment to the investigation, but maintains no wrongdoing in the highlighting of its other services in search results. The company also denies fixing search results to promote clients of its advertising network, another accusation being investigated by the probe.