Earlier in the week, reports indicated that the Federal Trade Commission is said to be looking into the ties between the Google and Apple Boards. The Google CEO and Arthur Levinson, the former chief executive of Genentech, sit on the boards of both companies and antitrust laws give the government the freedom to intervene if directors sit on the boards of two competing companies, particularly if their presence threatens to reduce competition.
When the story broke, experts told the WSJ that it was a rarely pursued issue in the business world, partly because it is difficult to prove the impact of the overlapping directors on either company but partly because it’s easily resolved with a resignation from one director. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal cited Schmidt as saying he would be keeping his seat on the Apple board of directors, claiming Apple was not a Google competitor. So browsers, mail clients and mobile platforms don’t count then?
In a gathering Thursday with reporters before Google's annual shareholder meeting, Mr. Schmidt said that resigning from the Apple board hasn't crossed his mind. "I don't think Google sees Apple as a primary competitor," he said.
While the ties between the two board members seemed fairly innocuous, the fact that Schmidt is apparently determined to not resign from his position on the Apple board is a bit of a head scratcher.
Speaking to the WSJ Kent Walker, Google's general counsel argued that the antitrust laws are clear that there is a "safe harbor" for companies that don't have overlapping revenue, adding that Google is comfortable with that position.