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Schmidt's Evasive Answers Open Door for Antitrust Investigations

It seems as though Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has a hard time keeping tabs on the company he has had lead as CEO or Chairman for a decade. Members of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights grew increasingly frustrated with Mr. Schmidt’s unclear answers to questions they had prepared for – and Mr. Schmidt should have been prepared to answer. Mr. Schmidt, testifying under oath, seemed conveniently clueless about a company he helped build when asked about critical allegations of anticompetitive behavior. Senator Franken (D-MN) summed up Schmidt’s evasive answers:

Senator Franken: [Senator Lee] asked you, when you’re not putting out the answer that people want, when you’re not doing that, do all your rankings reflect an unbiased algorithm? And you said — after a little hesitation — “I believe so.”

That seemed like a pretty fuzzy answer to me coming from the chairman. If you don’t know, who does? I really — that really bothers me, because that’s the crux of this, isn’t it? And you don’t know. So we’re — we’re trying to have a hearing here about whether you favor your own stuff, and you’re asked that question, and you admittedly don’t know the answer.

When asked if his company was still engaging in the scraping of Yelp’s content, Schmidt was again unable to answer the senator’s question clearly:

Senator Franken:  I’d just like to ask one short question, and then hopefully go to a second round if we can. Is Google still using Yelp’s content to drive business to Google Places?

Schmidt: As far as I know, not.

Franken: As far as you know?

Schmidt: Well, again, I’ll have to look, but I’m not aware of any.

Franken: OK. Maybe [Yelp! CEO Jeremy] Stoppelman will help us on that. Thank you.

It is a waste of time for taxpayers, elected officials, private sector leaders and the media when a witness like Eric Schmidt cannot answer questions in a clear and complete way. This hearing is crucial to the future of the technology sector so we need the technology sector’s leadership to do their part.