Google’s Schmidt Fighting Fires, from Oracle to FTC

After failing to settle during their first meeting in court, Google CEO Larry Page and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison were called back for a second meeting in court on Wednesday.

The second attempt to come to an agreement was still unsuccessful.  According to the filing in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, a call will be scheduled for Thursday to determine “when further discussions will take place and whether the further attendance of Mr. Ellison and Mr. Page will be required.”

Google’s party included Page, Chief Legal Officer David Drummond and Google Senior VP of Mobile Andy Rubin, while Oracle’s Ellison brought Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz.

Both parties declined to comment on what happened in court.

If future settlement talks still fail, there’s already a tentative trial date set for October.

Fighting multiple fires

As for Google’s other battle, executive Eric Schmidt came under fire from the FTC and the Senate when he appeared at the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on “The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?”  Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl pressed the issue as to why Google’s own services rank highly among search results.  Schmidt’s response did not satisfy Kohl, so Kohl answered for Schmidt and pulled up a less diplomatic explanation from a Google lieutenant in a 2007 interview: “We do all the work for the search page … so we do put it first.”

But the highlight of the hearing was the probe on Microsoft’s complaint that Google increased advertising price per click from ¢10 to $5 for placing a Windows Live ad next to search results for the word “hotmail,” Microsoft’s e-mail product.  According to Microsoft, at the time of the price increase, Google told Microsoft that “the rate increased because users who clicked on the ad were directed to a low- quality website.”  The low-quality website Google directed to was the home page for Windows Live, whose services included Hotmail.

According to Andre Barlow, an antitrust lawyer at Doyle, Barlow & Mazard in Washington, “If true, the Microsoft allegations could be used to help the FTC build a case showing that Google abused its power as the owner of the world’s most popular search engine, violating the Sherman Act and other antitrust laws.”

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