Google is holding secret negotiations with the US Department of Justice to head off a full investigation into its ad-sharing deal with Yahoo!.
Big advertisers are worried the tie-up between the internet's two largest advertisers will mean higher prices and a restricted market, because there will be less competition.
Execs from Google and DoJ lawyers are looking at capping the number of Google ads that Yahoo! could serve, promises that Yahoo! would continue to compete in the search ad market or even some kind of reporting process so lawyers could keep an eye on prices charged, the Wall Street Journal reports. Google has traditionally kept tight control of access to detailed information on search advertising.
But alongside these negotiations, the DoJ is continuing to prepare for a possible anti-trust case against Google - last month it hired Carter-era anti-trust litigator Sandy M Litvack.
Google and Yahoo! have agreed to delay implementing the deal until 22 October to give officials time to weigh up the anti-trust implications.
The search giant faces a separate investigation by European anti-trust regulators. ®