The research arm of Missouri-based brokerage and investment banking firm Stifel Financial Corp. has reported that “the staff of DG Competition, the European Commission agency responsible for merger reviews, has prepared its draft ‘Statement of Objection’ (SO) in the planned Google (GOOG) takeover of DoubleClick.”
Privacy advocates already are pouncing on this as a potential roadblock in the European Commission’s approval of the deal.
Let’s make one thing clear: This is a draft. The analyst firm has not reported that an SO has been sent.
I just spoke with Rebecca Arbogast, a principal analyst with Stifel who focuses on legal and regulatory issues. She was not able to tell me who she learned about the draft from, nor even what type of entities the people she’s gathered this information from represent. In other words, even if this draft does indicate something, ClickZ News has no first-hand confirmation that it exists.
Arbogast told me, “If they were sure they were going to clear [the Google/DoubleClick deal], they wouldn’t have done it [drafted the SO].”
She added it is common practice among government lawyers, both in the EU and the US to draft such statements in order to clarify thoughts about a particular case, whether it actually is submitted or not. Thus, there’s no telling whether this alleged draft will ever see the light of day, at least from what I’ve gathered from her.
In the end, Stifel predicted the European Commission won’t block the merger.
Just last week, observers of the acquisition jumped on a Reuters report that suggested the deal would “likely go ahead.” It based this conclusion on a source’s statement that the Commission had not sent Google an SO. The source said, “If they had serious doubts, we’re at the point where … if you don’t send (such a statement), you don’t have time to complete the case.”
This information was attributed to “a lawyer acting for a client concerned about the deal.”
Well, I’m concerned about the deal between the Mets and Johan Santana going through, but I don’t expect anyone will be citing me or my lawyer as reliable anonymous sources on the matter anytime soon.
I’ve contacted the Commission’s Directorate General for Competition in the hopes of confirming this information, or at least vetting it. As far as we understand, the time is close to a reasonable deadline for submitting an SO to the defense, but let’s not jump to conclusions based on pure speculation.
Expect to see several stories today and tomorrow that do just that, though.