Report: FTC eyes Apple, Google board relationship

Apple and Google share two board members, a cozy relationship that has reportedly prompted the Federal Trade Commission to take a closer look at the antitrust implications.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit

Correction, 5:03 p.m. PDT: This story had an incorrect title for Art Levinson. He is the former CEO of Genentech.

The Federal Trade Commission has decided to take a look at the cozy relationship between Google and Apple, according to a report.

The New York Times reported Monday that Google and Apple have been informed that the FTC would like to investigate whether the fact that Apple and Google have two members of their boards of directors in common--Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Genentech CEO Art Levinson--amounts to a violation of antitrust law. The Times attributed the news to anonymous sources; all three parties--the FTC, Apple, and Google--declined to comment on the matter for the report.

Schmidt's involvement on Apple's board , especially after Google revealed plans to release its own mobile operating system in Android. Schmidt has said he recuses himself from Apple board meetings where the iPhone is discussed, but under Section 8 of the Clayton Antitrust Act, companies are not supposed to have the same board members if "it would reduce competition between them," the Times reported.

Given that Android is such a small part of Google's business at this point in its history, the relationship between the two companies may not amount to a clear violation, according to legal experts interviewed by the Times. Still, neither company is likely to be thrilled about government scrutiny; Google is reportedly facing another investigation from the Department of Justice over Google Book Search.