Google CEO Sees No Conflict With Apple Board Seat

    May 8, 2009

Earlier this week it was reported that the Federal Trade Commission had launched an inquiry into whether the overlap of directors on the boards of Apple and Google violates antitrust laws.

Eric SchmidtGoogle Chief Executive Eric Schmidt acknowledged the FTC inquiry but does not see a problem with the boards sharing two directors.

"From my perspective, I don’t think Google sees Apple as a primary competitor," Schmidt told reporters ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday.  

Schmidt and former Genetech CEO Arthur Levinson sit on the boards of both Apple and Google. Under federal antitrust law, a person is not allowed to be on the board of two companies if it reduces competition between them.

Google General Counsel Kent Walker acknowledged media reports that the company is in "pending discussions with the FTC about their two shared directors. He said the law provides a safe harbor for mutual shareholders when there is no overlapping revenue.

"What is changed is that we are more careful about when and how we do things which are going to raise concerns of any party," said Schmidt. "But it hasn’t prevented us from doing them."

Separately, Google is facing an antitrust probe by the Justice Department over its class action deal it reached with publishers and authorize to digitize and sell books.