There’s no deal yet. But when Robert Lande picked up the phone last Tuesday, Microsoft Corp.’s lawyer Charles “Rick” Rule was on the line, making a pitch.

Rule’s argument went something like this: Microsoft and Yahoo Inc., despite their immense size, needed to combine forces to take on Google Inc. in the war for the Web. Their proposed $44.6 billion merger would winnow the search engine market down to two major companies — and create a true competitor for Google. And since Lande and his group, the American Antitrust Institute, are fierce advocates of increased marketplace competition, they should support the deal. If they couldn’t do that, they should, at the very least, remain silent.

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