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Google Antitrust Investigations: FTC, EU, state attorneys general… More to come?

The ABA Journal reported this week that Google was subpoenaed by the Missouri attorney general (Josh Hawley) for antitrust and consumer protection violations. Google has been placed on notice and the investigation is ongoing. Earlier this year, the Mississippi attorney general sued Google for similar violations and the European Union fined the company $2.7 billion for consumer protection violations. Are you seeing a pattern? Antitrust litigation against Google seems to be full speed ahead.

According to the article, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) completed an investigation against Google in 2013. The FTC concluded, “We have not found sufficient evidence that Google manipulates its search algorithms to unfairly disadvantage vertical websites that compete with Google-owned vertical properties.” Evidently, Mr. Hawley does not agree with the FTC finding so he decided to investigate on his own.

When investigating and prosecuting cases involving sophisticated technology and antitrust issues, attorneys depend on experts to perform complex investigations and unravel complex issues. Who will the attorneys general and defense counsel turn to in support of these involved matters? Let’s take a look at the issues:

Antitrust / Consumer Protection:

To understand more about the laws governing antitrust issues in the US please visit the FTC for a brief summary.

Essentially, United States antitrust law is a collection of federal and state laws regulating the conduct and organization of businesses, generally to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers.  As the FTC page indicates, there are three main laws covering antitrust behavior: the Sherman Act 1890, the Clayton Act 1914 and the Federal Trade Commission Act 1914. For more than 100 years, “The antitrust laws have had the same basic objective: to protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up.” The laws also basically prevent collusion or cartel-like practices and monopolies.

The Missouri attorney general has said, “There is strong reason to believe that Google has not been acting with the best interest of Missourians in mind.” It appears the Mr. Hawley believes Google is doing things which are not promoting, and possibly impeding, fair competition. Further, their algorithms may be directing users to Google-owned properties rather than websites offering services which compete with those Google-owned properties. As Google is the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to Internet searching, any tactics directing users to their own goods or services could be considered a restraint of trade.

In order to prove Google manipulates algorithms for their own benefit, the Missouri attorney general is probably going to have to employ some expert consultants who may later testify as expert witnesses. Google’s defense counsel will probably have to do the same. I assume Google will have many of the pre-litigation consultants in-house.

During the investigation, Mr. Hawley will likely need to consult with antitrust and antitrust economics experts to determine if actions by Google are negatively impacting consumers or restraining trade. Furthermore, he may need to employ consultants to conduct market research to have statistical evidence of the impact on consumers.

Algorithms:

Most of us (is this too presumptive?) have some sort of rough idea about search algorithms and what they accomplish. We understand it to be a mathematical equation used to search data and deliver a result based on the search terms we utilized.

After reading my last paragraph, I have to say there are probably far more accurate and simplistic descriptions of an algorithm. I may not have properly described how they work. That’s because I’m not a computer scientist. Luckily, neither the prosecution nor defense will be calling Nick Rishwain as an expert witness in Missouri v. Google.

The legal representatives from both sides are going to need assistance in understanding search algorithms and how algorithms might be manipulated by Google. They are going to need to know this quite early in the case in order to request and deliver the proper documentation during the investigation and discovery stages should Missouri file a lawsuit.

Both sides will likely need the assistance of information and Internet technology consultants. More specifically, I can see the need for information science & architecture experts as well as search engine optimization experts.

As the ABA Journal article made abundantly clear: Google has faced many legal actions related to antitrust and it appears even more legal actions lie ahead. It should be noted that Google is not alone in this area. There appears to be increased chatter about antitrust actions against Amazon as well. If the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission avoid taking action, we may see more attorneys general choosing to investigate and possibly prosecute the corporate giants for dominating the market.

For more information, check out the Experts.com Antitrust Articles section.

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Expert Witness Marketing – The Importance of Publications

Marketing in the Expert Witness arena should not be a stagnant process. In such a competitive market, there must be more than a simple description of services. When relevant information is provided to potential clients, the chances of being retained are much higher.

The goal in any marketing strategy is exposure to the widest number of viewers. For Expert Witnesses and Consultants, publications are an extremely effective tool to help cast a wide net. Member Articles and Case Scenarios posted on Experts.com receive phenomenal exposure on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Informative topics with Search Engine Optimized titles can garner excellent exposure simply because there is a need for such knowledge. For instance, Member Peter Wade, who worked with the United States Postal Service for over 30 years, many of those in administrative and supervisory positions, posted an article entitled, “Certified Mail Versus Certificate of Mailing: What’s the Difference?This article has been viewed 18,013 times to date (See View Charts). Based on the numbers, there is a definite need for the dissemination of this knowledge

Experts.com Article View Source Chart

Experts.com Article View Source Chart

Experts.com Article Frequency Chart

Experts.com Article Frequency Chart

Case Studies and Case Scenarios are also an excellent alternative to writing something academic and time consuming. Case Studies allow attorneys to read fact patterns that may be similar to cases on which they are working. It also provides a sample of analytical and report writing abilities. Party names and other identifying information can be altered for confidentiality purposes. The format is a simple checklist with which attorneys are familiar:

  • Explain the facts of the case (the represented parties; how the case arose; allegations, etc.)
  • Explain the technical issues of the case
  • Give an analysis / opinion
  • Explain how the case concluded

For those involved in promoting their Expert Witness or Consulting services, publications serve as the “squeaky wheel.” The more squeak, the more oil. The numbers reflect that professional interaction with the targeted market and business community can favorably affect the amount of exposure received and, more importantly, the bottom line.

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Experts.com Launches New Website Platform


Experts.com is proud to announce the launch of its new website platform, with a sophisticated and modern new look and functionality. The changes are specifically intended to increase usability and brand awareness for the benefit of Experts.com Members.

The new website allows Members to market their expertise across multiple platforms, e.g., Expert Witness, Expert Consultant, Expert Answers, Expert Services, Expert Forum and Expert Blog. Members can now customize their Profiles to targeted markets through photos, video testimonials, publications such as articles and books and any other pertinent pages, documents or links of interest. The new site launched August 4, 2011 with the first two platforms for Expert Witnesses and Expert Consultants.

An attorney himself, Experts.com’s President and CEO, Nabil E. Zumout, Esq., strongly believes that the Expert Witness and Expert Consultant search process must be Efficient, Effective and Economical, especially in this troubled economy. “Our Members are at the top of their respective fields. Their expertise may vary in complexity and their services are often equally diverse. The new platform allows each Member to tailor his or her Profile to the intended audience, highlighting the particular expertise or service of interest to that audience and without compromising his or her marketing message.”

On the administrative side, Mr. Zumout states that, “the new platform allows for the consolidated management and tracking of Profiles, Articles, Books, etc., that are linked to each Profile. Finally, upgrading the infrastructure to the latest .NET platform will allow us to add more features, including Member Profile Pages with Unique, SEO friendly URLs. Again, we are simply better facilitating the means of communication between our Experts and those seeking their services.”

Please visit Experts.com to view our new look and functionality! Email support@experts.com with any questions or comments.