Aug

03

Google Director Resigns from Apple Board Because of Competition Concerns

Posted by : Matthew Wild | On : August 3, 2009

Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, resigned today from Apple’s board of directors because the increased competition between Google and Apple raised conflicts for him that precluded his participation in many of Apple’s business decisions.  It is unclear whether his resignation was in response to an inquiry by the FTC into Google’s and Apple’s interlocking directorates first reported on May 5, 2009 by the New York Times.  Section 8 of the Clayton Act forbids competitors from having common directors and has been interpreted broadly.  Nevertheless, it is a toothless statute that is rarely enforced and imposes no penalties for violations.  The offending director must simply resign from one board.  In this case, it is unclear whether the FTC has undertaken to enforce the statute as Arthur Levison remains on the boards of Google and Apple.  His presence on both boards would seem to violate Section 8.  It should be noted, however, that the genuine issue that can arise from interlocking directorates is that it can provide circumstantial proof of a conspiracy in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.  If the two firms engage in parallael conduct, for example, plaintiffs might allege that the companies had an opportunity to conspire through the common directors.  Thus, antitrust practitioners advise companies to avoid interlocking directorates where meaningful competition between the two companies exists.

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