At the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the hottest ticket in recent years has invariably been an invitation to Google’s lavish private party, and 2011 was no exception. During the event Outgoing CEO Eric Schmidt met with Joaquin Almunia, vp of the European Commission.
At the meeting, previously undisclosed, Mr. Schmidt asked Mr. Almunia to complete the inquiry as quickly as possible. If the investigation showed there were problems, he requested that the company be given a chance to offer a solution without incurring a penalty, according to people with direct knowledge of their conversation. Mr. Almunia told Mr. Schmidt he would try to do so, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of antitrust investigations.
The details of the investigation are not public, and Google has not disclosed its responses to the EC. A Google spokesman, Al Verney, said recently that “there’s always going to be room for improvement” and that Google would “continue to work closely with” E.U. regulators to address any concerns.
And, the spokeswoman for Almunia said he was “happy with Google’s cooperation in the commission’s investigation.”
Google has some reason to be hopeful — to a point.
Mr. Almunia is portrayed by those who know him as more of a consensus-seeker than his immediate predecessors, who imposed huge fines on Microsoft and, in another case, on the U.S. chip giant Intel, a ruling that is still under appeal.