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Google hires top DC law firm to help with antitrust case

Google has reportedly hired a top DC law firm to help it battle the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust probe.

As reported by Bloomberg, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Williams & Connolly LLP, which counts former President Bill Clinton and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan among its clients.

In June 2011, Google said the FTC had started a "review of our business," but did not get specific on what types of documents the agency wanted. Recently, Joaquín Almunia, vice president of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, also called on Google to change parts of its business by 2 July in order to avoid antitrust action, but it does not appear that Google plans to do so.

In September, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt appeared on Capitol Hill to defend his company's business practices. According to Bloomberg, Schmidt was questioned by FTC officials on 5 June.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the law firm, but a spokesman told Bloomberg that the company is "happy to explain our business to regulators and answer any questions they may have."

In April, there were reports that the FTC hired a well-known outside attorney, Beth A. Wilkinson, which many believed to be a sign that the agency would take Google to court.

At the D10 conference last week, FTC chairman John Leibowitz confirmed Wilkinson's hiring, but denied the move was any sort of indication as to how the case would be handled. "When you have the opportunity to get someone of Beth's stature and abilities ... you always take her up on it," Leibowitz said.

"It doesn't mean we've decided to bring a case at all," he continued. "It just means that we have very competent counsel that can go toe-to-toe with [Google's] very competent counsel."

When asked about the progress of the case, Leibowitz said that "at this point, all we're doing is collecting information and trying to think through these complex issues."

Earlier today, Google hit back at accusations from shopping site Nextag that it is manipulating search results to favour its own products and effectively becoming a "brand killer."