FTC Says Probe Into Google, Apple Boards Continues, Even With Schmidt’s Resignation

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Credit: AP Images

Eric Schmidt may have resigned from Apple’s board, but that doesn’t mean that the Justice Department is going to curb its antitrust inquiry into the overlap of directors on the companies’ boards, which may have prompted Schmidt’s resignation in the first place (The FCC inquiry into the reasons Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) rejected a Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Voice app for the iPhone showed just how much potential for conflict there indeed was).

In a statement, Bureau of Competition Director Richard Feinstein said, “We have been investigating the Google/Apple interlocking directorates issue for some time and commend them for recognizing that sharing directors raises competitive issues, as Google and Apple increasingly compete with each other. We will continue to investigate remaining interlocking directorates between the companies.”

With Schmidt’s resignation, Google and Apple still share one director, former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson. Since antitrust law prohibits directors from serving on the boards of two competing corporations — and does not distinguish between how many directors overlap — it’s likely that the FTC now wants Levinson to resign from one of the two boards as well.

A Levinson resignation also would not be too surprising, considering that in announcing Schmidt’s resignation, Apple acknowledged that there were “potential conflicts of interest.” Levinson obviously isn’t CEO of Google but his position on Google’s board means he’s just as likely to have to recuse himself from discussions of Chrome OS and Android as Schmidt is.

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