US States Split On Google Investigation Strategy

The US Justice Department is nearing a lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google for antitrust violations and a coalition of states that are conducting a parallel investigation are divided over the best strategy for taking on the Internet giant, according to Bloomberg.

While the multistate investigation into Google’s dominance of the digital advertising market is in its final stages, some state attorneys general are advocating to take more time to investigate Google’s conduct in other markets and potentially bring a broader case against the company, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing a confidential matter.

The disagreement could affect whether states join a Justice Department complaint about Google. Like the states, federal antitrust enforcers have been investigating whether Google is thwarting competition in the digital advertising market, where it holds a commanding position.

The Justice Department, which is coordinating with the states, wants to move quickly, two of the people said, and is on track to file a complaint this summer, another person said, though it wasn’t clear what conduct the complaint will ultimately target. The Department declined to comment.

“While we continue to engage with ongoing investigations, our focus is on creating free products that lower costs for small businesses and help Americans every day,” Google said in a statement.

State attorneys general can play a pivotal role in enforcement cases against companies when they band together in group investigations. They joined the Justice Department in suing Microsoft  in 1998 for antitrust violations. The case nearly led to the break-up of the company when a judge sided with the government. After an appeals court reversed the ruling, the Justice Department under the George W. Bush administration settled the case.

Two people familiar with the states’ investigation said the split among the states reflects normal tension about the best litigation strategy. A broad complaint would cover more conduct, but would take more time to complete.

Full Content: Bloomberg

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