Google is blowing money fast on antitrust offenses...  (Source: Flickr)

Google is facing inquiries in the European Union and the State of Texas. The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to soon jump in the fray with an investigation of its own.  (Source: ZDNet UK)
Do no evil?

Google Inc. (GOOG), like Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), was born out of a rebellious enterprising attitude.  Unsatisfied with the status quo, the company proceeded to rewrite the way people experience the internet.  But, much like Microsoft, as the company has aged and matured its behavior has been increasingly called into question.

I. A Huge Fine Incoming?

According to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Google is setting aside a whopping $500M USD to cover antitrust settlements stemming from a pending U.S. federal antitrust inquiry.  The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly in the preliminary stages of launching an investigation into whether Google abused its dominant competition to crush smaller competitors in the fields of search and online advertising.

That's not catastrophic, but it's no small chunk of change for the internet giant, who earned $2.3B USD in profit in calendar Q1 2011.

This week was supposed to be a happy one for Google.  The company is currently holding its I/O Conference for developers, announcing partnerships with appliance manufacturers, a joint venture with Ford to improve fuel economy, an upcoming version of the company's mobile device Android operating system, a new cloud storage service -- Google Music -- and more.

II. To the Cloud -- the Antitrust Cloud, That is...

But it's hard to ignore the anti-trust cloud that has blown over Google.

Aside from the pending DOJ probe, there's an ongoing probe into Google's internet activities by the European Union, whom previously levied billion dollar fines against Microsoft and Intel Corp (INTC) for antitrust violations.  

And in the U.S. some states have also launched their own inquiries, compelled by complaints from local businesses.  Greg Abbott, Texas's attorney general, has launched an investigation into the giant's behavior.  The inquiry would be worrisome enough for Google were it coming from a pro-antitrust liberal, but Mr. Abbott, a conservative official who is in the process of challenge the Obama administration's National Health Care plan, is generally seen as a business-friendly official.

The Department of Justice was among the first to latch on to Google as a possible antitrust target.  The DOJ struck down a court settlement that would give Google exclusive rights to publish out of print books.  It also only approved Google's recent acquisition of online travel software giant ITA after tacking on strict terms requiring Google to continue to offer competitors equivalent service.

III. A Unique Position -- Tempting Abuse?

Google is in a unique position, given that it controls over 80 percent of the world's search traffic.  Some accuse it of leveraging that position illegally to preferentially direct customers to its services, such as email and online office software.  Others say Google is gaming its ad system to artificially raise prices.  Ads are Google's primary source of revenue -- it made $8.3B USD off them in Q1 2011 alone.

Concerns are also growing about Google's increasingly dominant position in the smart phone industry.  A location-tracking software service provider, Skyhook Inc. recently sued Google in Massachusetts federal court, claiming that the company threatened hardware partners Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (005930) and Motorola Mobility Solutions, Inc. (MMI), getting them to drop Skyhook's service for Google's own offering.

However all of these private and governmental court disputes pan out, there seems a great potential for damage to Google's bottom line and reputation.

Investors have hammered Google stock in recent weeks, fearing that the investigations will hurt its ability to compete with small challengers and surging young powers like Facebook.  Facebook recently passed Google to become the most used site on the internet.  The social networking site is increasingly looking to rely on its own internal advertising and services platform, a threat to Google's internet dominance. 

Google refused comment concerning the detail in its filing with the SEC.

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs

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