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FTC plans formal investigation of Intel

Chipmaker has been under fire for its business practices in other parts of the world, but its home country is finally opening its own investigation into alleged anticompetitive conduct.

Updated 10:00am PT with statement from AMD

Intel's business practices will come under the scrutiny of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which has opened a formal antitrust investigation of the chipmaker.

The New York Times, citing lawyers and government officials, reported on Friday morning that subpoenas have begun to arrive at the offices of the world's major PC companies.

Intel has been under intense scrutiny in other parts of the world, especially in Europe, South Korea, and Japan, but it has faced little objection to its business practices here at home in recent years, other than a recent investigation launched at the state level by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

An FTC representative declined to comment on the investigation, citing its policy of neither confirming nor denying the existence of any ongoing investigations. But Intel confirmed the investigation in a statement issued Friday morning.

"On June 4, the U.S. FTC served a subpoena related to Intel's business practices with respect to competition in the microprocessor market. Since 2006, Intel has been working closely with the FTC on an informal inquiry into competition in the microprocessor market, and has provided the commission staff with a considerable amount of information and thousands of documents," according to the statement. "By proceeding to a subpoena, the commission will be able to obtain not only information that Intel has already committed to provide but also information from other parties. Consistent with its standard practice, Intel will work cooperatively with the FTC staff to comply with the subpoena and continue providing information."

Intel's main opponent, Advanced Micro Devices, has filed an antitrust suit against the company in the federal courts over Intel's alleged practice of offering favorable pricing discounts to PC makers in exchange for keeping AMD's chips out of their system, which Intel has denied. That case is winding its way through the court system, and it shows no signs of coming to a trial anytime soon.

UPDATED 10:00 am PT - AMD issued a statement after news of the investigation was released. "Intel must now answer to the Federal Trade Commission, which is the appropriate way to determine the impact of Intel practices on U.S. consumers and technology businesses. In every country around the world where Intel's business practices have been investigated, including the decision by South Korea this week, antitrust regulators have taken action."