legal briefingA daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Texas Launches Google Antitrust Investigation

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is investigating Google (GOOG) for allegedly manipulating search results to hurt its competitors, which could be an antitrust violation. Three small companies, two in the U.S. and one in the U.K., have all complained of Google search manipulation. EU regulators are investigating the U.K. company's claim; the U.S. companies sued. The companies, which received assistance in making their claims from Microsoft, insist they are not pawns in the competitive fight between Microsoft and Google. The fact that Abbott has initiated the investigation suggests he, at least, thinks there's something to their claims.

Such manipulation would also be a violation of the principle of "Search Neutrality," the kind of rogue behavior not expected from the "Don't Be Evil" company that once championed Net Neutrality. Of course, Google is no longer hailed as defending the free internet against "evil" corporations seeking to control it, not after it announced a joint policy with Verizon limiting net neutrality to the wired world. If the search manipulation allegations are true -- and Google denies them -- perhaps Google's slogan has unspoken caveats, like: Don't Be Evil (unless it affects your core business.)

Ex-Enron CEO Skilling Stays in Jail, for Now

Court to Jeff Skilling: Rot in jail while your appeal pends, reports Bloomberg.

Give Us Details on Public Employee Pensions, Demand Lawsuits

The Wall Street Journal reports that state and local retirement funds are facing lawsuits over their refusal to disclose pension payment information about high-earning individual retirees. The suits pit the public's need to know what's happening to their tax dollars versus worker privacy. I confess I'm not sympathetic to the privacy claims, particularly since some suits don't even ask for names and the focus seems to be on the high-income pensions. The public can't exert political pressure about the public payroll or pensions to rein in excess if it doesn't have a handle on what those excesses are. And if the data can't easily be traced to individuals because basic identifying information like names isn't included, I really don't see the public policy argument for secrecy.

And in the Business of Law:

The legal profession may have gained 1000 jobs last month, reports American Lawyer. I say "may" because in July the profession supposedly gained 800 jobs, which was revised down to 300. And May and June had a combined loss of 4,000 legal sector jobs, so no real sign of a turnaround yet.

The American Lawyer also reports on two surveys, one on women partners and the other on associate satisfaction. From the survey on women, it's striking that only 17% of partners are women, even though 51% of law school graduates over the last 20 years are. There's also a gender gap when it comes to being "income" or "equity" partners, the latter kind making much more money. At firms that have income partners as well as equity partners, 45% of the women partners are equity partners compared to 62% of the men. The magazine suggests that women seeking less than a full time schedule account for some of the income/equity gap, interviewing women who happily chose income and flextime over equity. The associate survey was more grim, finding that those who survived the layoffs are more miserable than they've been in six years. For associate's misery rankings by firm size and city, nifty ranking charts are available.

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