House Cancels Microsoft-Yahoo Hearing

The Judiciary Committee plans future probes into the proposed merger while other Congressional panels line up their own hearings.

Congress' headlong rush to investigate the privacy and antitrust implications of Microsoft's unsolicited $44.6 billion for Yahoo hit a bump Feb. 7 when the House Judiciary Committee canceled a hearing on the matter.

Just a day after news of the proposed deal broke Feb. 1, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., announced the panel's Task Force on Antitrust and Competition would conduct a hearing Feb. 8 to officially launch Congress' oversight of the deal.

"Microsoft's bid to acquire Yahoo is certainly one of the largest technology mergers we've seen and presents important issues regarding the competitive landscape of the Internet," Conyers and ranking member Lamar Smith said in a joint statement Feb. 2 announcing the hearing.

But late on Feb. 7, the House Judiciary Committee cancelled the hearing. According to sources close to the panel, the hearing was dropped "due to scheduling conflicts." No witnesses were ever announced for the hearing and a spokesperson for the panel said witnesses were being lined up for a future, undetermined date.

Earlier this week, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said his subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection would hold a hearing this spring to look into the proposed merger.

"The subcommittee intends to request a confidential briefing from the appropriate government regulators, and to schedule a hearing ... to explore the tough competition and consumer privacy issues that have been and will be raised by this activity," Rush and ranking Republican member Ed Whitfield said in a Feb. 5 joint statement.

In a separate statement, Whitfield added: "Recent mergers in the search and online advertising worlds raise significant privacy concerns. I look forward to working with [Rush] as we investigate what personal information these types of companies glean from consumers' use of the Internet, and how those data sets may be combined for future use."

In the Senate, Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said his Judiciary subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights would also be holding hearings on the Microsoft-Yahoo deal.

"The recent announcement by Microsoft demonstrates that consolidation of companies in the Internet advertising world will continue, irrespective of whether this specific deal materializes," Kohl said in a statement.