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FTC hires ex-DOJ prosecutor for Google antitrust probe

Beth Wilkinson, a former Justice Department prosecutor, will reportedly play a key role in deciding whether to launch an antitrust suit against Google.

The Federal Trade Commission has hired a former Justice Department prosecutor to play a crucial role in determining whether it should charge Google with antitrust violations.

The FTC confirmed to The Wall Street Journal last night that it had hired Beth Wilkinson, an attorney at law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. In her new role, Wilkinson, who is also a former Department of Justice prosecutor, will help lead the team that could decide whether the FTC believes that Google violated antitrust regulations and, if so, prosecute the company as well.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch said Wilkinson would "carry out the duties of a trial lawyer," adding that she wouldn't have been brought on "if she were going to be completely idle."

Google has come under intense regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. over the last several months. Several organizations, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, have called on the FTC to launch a complaint against the search company. Last month, Bloomberg reported that the FTC's ongoing investigation brought it to Apple's doors, where it's reportedly asking the iPhone maker about its iOS search deal with Google.

In Europe, Google is facing similar trouble at the hands of the European Union's competition office, which is expected to make a decision on an antitrust complaint in the coming weeks.

For its part, Google has said all along that it will cooperate with any regulatory body's investigation.

CNET has contacted Google for comment on the Journal report. We will update this story when we get more information.