Yahoo Inc.’s plans to boost its profits in an online advertising partnership with rival Google Inc. could be moving into the crosshairs of the U.S. Justice Department, which has hired an antitrust litigator to review evidence for a possible legal challenge to the deal.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the attorney is Sanford Litvack, a former vice chairman at Walt Disney Co. and chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust division during the Carter administration.
Litvack is reviewing evidence the department has gathered in what could become an antitrust case focused either on Google itself or on the search-advertising partnership it announced with Yahoo in June, the Journal reported. That deal was part of Yahoo’s attempt to ward off a takeover attempt by Microsoft Corp.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
But Yahoo said in a statement, "We have been informed that the Justice Department, as they sometimes do, is seeking advice from an outside consultant, but that we should read nothing into that fact. We remain confident that the deal is lawful."
Google executives also have repeatedly predicted the partnership will clear all regulatory hurdles. Chief Executive Eric Schmidt even went so far as to recently declare that Google intended to pursue the Yahoo partnership next month, even the Justice Department hadn’t completed its review.