Government looks at Apple, Google board ties

What competitors have not been able to do to Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG), the Federal Trade Commission may accomplish -- slowing the ability to remain dominant in their respective industries.

The companies share two board members and one of them is Google CEO Eric Schmidt. This has raised concerns that business dealings between the two firms may not be at "arm's length." If the FTC probe goes badly for the tech giants, the two directors might have to step down at one of the companies.

According toThe Wall Street Journal, "It appears that Google is now in the sights of the antitrust enforcers," said Samuel Miller, an antitrust lawyer who is a partner at Sidley Austin in San Francisco.

Is the investigation likely to cause major concerns for either company? Probably not. It is unlikely that Schmidt would risk sharing Apple trade secrets with his management. He would be risking his own reputation and job. Board members typically sign non-disclosure agreements. Interlocking board memberships are not uncommon. The Securities and Exchange Commission rules about fiduciary obligations are strong and the agency is likely to enforce any violation and keep a special eye on large companies that dominate their industries.

Perhaps most relevant of all, Apple and Google do not really need extra help.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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