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DOJ - Back to Antitrust?

Intel could face antitrust heat

Regardless of how you felt about the US Department of Justice's (DOJ) actions against Microsoft ten years ago, the Bush administration's more relaxed view towards antitrust made a significant difference in the ultimate outcome of that case. The US DOJ did not bring a single antitrust case against a dominant company during the 8 years of George W. Bush's administration. Instead, the DOJ tried to build a "safe harbor of conduct" for those dominant firms to protect them from antitrust consideration. The new DOJ antitrust chief, Christine Varney, has scrapped the Bush administration’s monopoly guidelines and appears to be moving to a much more aggressive antitrust position towards major industries, including airlines, railroads, cable companies, food processors, and pharmaceuticals (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/business/26antitrust.html?_r=2). The DOJ is also beginning to investigate Google for its agreement reached with book publishers. The Senate is holding hearings regarding Apple's exclusive iPhone deal with AT&T, and the Federal Trade Commission is looking at Apple for blocking a Google telephony application from the iPhone. Intel isn't under the microscope quite yet, although the FTC began investigating them on antitrust grounds last year. Nvidia is complaining about Intel bundling a bundled Atom CPU for less than it costs by itself, and AMD's antitrust lawsuit against Intel, filed in 2005 (http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/102830/Update_AMD_files_broad_antitrust_suit_against_Intel), is expected to go to trial next year in Delaware. Intel was already fined $1.44 billion earlier this year by the EU for anticompetitive behavior against AMD, and $25 million in South Korea last year. Should they be nervous? I think so. For additional information, see http://www.networkworld.com/news/2009/080409-obama-administration-new-legal-research.html and http://www.cio.com/article/498872/Obama_Administration_New_Legal_Research_Could_Jack_Up_Antitrust_Heat_on_Intel.

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