Google's Eric Schmidt agrees to testify at Senate antitrust hearing
Google Inc.'s Eric Schmidt has agreed to testify at a Senate antitrust subcommittee hearing, ending the company's standoff with the panel's leaders over which executive would face expected tough questioning about the Internet giant's role in the online search marketplace.
Schmidt, the company's chairman and former chief executive, agreed Friday to appear after the subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and its top Republican, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, pressed Google to send one of its highest-ranking officials.
The senators were unhappy with Google's original offer of Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, saying they would "strongly prefer" questioning Schmidt or Chief Executive Larry Page as part of the subcommittee's examination of antitrust complaints about the company. Kohl and Lee implied in a June 10 letter to Schmidt and Page that the subcommittee might subpoena one of them.
So with the Federal Trade Commission having launched a formal investigation into Google's business practices, Schmidt agreed to testify at a hearing sometime in September, Kohl and Lee said.
"This will allow us to have a truly informational and thorough public hearing," Kohl said.
Lee said he looked forward "to discussing a number of important issues relating to Google and Internet search competition."
Kohl and Lee had wanted to hold the hearing before the Senate left for its August recess, but agreed to move it to September to accommodate Schmidt's schedule.
Google spokesperson Mistique Cano said the company was happy to accommodate the subcommittee's request for a top executive. "We appreciate their willingness to work with us to make it happen this fall," she said.
Google had been under pressure to deliver a high-ranking executive after Kohl and Lee sent a strongly worded letter June 10 to Schmidt and Page.
"Google is the preeminent provider of Internet search, and a hearing on this important topic would be incomplete without the direct perspective and views of one of Google's top two executives, each of whom has played a prominent role at the company throughout the last decade," Kohl and Lee wrote. "We strongly prefer to have one of you as the witness representing Google at the hearing, which will address fundamental questions of business operations rather than mere legal issues."
-- Jim Puzzanghera
Photo: Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. Credit: Bloomberg.