August 19, 2020
The Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr plan to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Google as soon as this summer, but not all of the DOJ staffers are happy with what they say is an “aggressive timeline.” Critics believe that the case isn’t ready for trial and that they need more time to determine if the “millions of pages of documents” contain enough evidence to win the case. But Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen stated that the case is “a major priority” and the DOJ is “going full-tilt.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that government antitrust lawyers have broken up into teams to determine “whether the search giant has used its dominance to stifle competition.” In one group, focused on Google’s search practices, some members “have voiced the belief that there are vulnerabilities in a case built around those issues.”
Another team, looking at Google’s advertising business and its “industry-leading tools at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers,” isn’t ready to act because its “still untangling the new and complex issues raised by that part of Google’s business and how it affects the many companies in the digital ecosystem.”
Barr, who will determine with his “top lieutenants” whether and when to sue Google, stated that, “things are moving along to my satisfaction in terms of the timing.” “I’m hoping to make a decision by the end of the summer,” he added. Due to the advertising investigation moving more slowly than anticipated, “the department could file any antitrust case in two parts, the first alleging Google is harming competition by how it runs its search business, with advertising-related allegations added later.”
Sources said that, “some Justice Department lawyers believe Google’s conduct isn’t blameless, but they don’t want to bring a once-in-a-generation lawsuit with flaws and lose in court.” DOJ staffers are also worried that, “top officials overseeing the probe might be feeling pressure to get a lawsuit filed before the election.”
WSJ notes that its publisher News Corp. is “a longtime Google critic and is among a group of publishers that have been contacted by antitrust investigators.” In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission which had been investigating Google for antitrust issues, decided not to bring a case. In the European Union, however, regulators have brought three cases against Google, “with fines totaling more than $9 billion.” Last week, Epic Games filed private antitrust lawsuits against Google and Apple.
Reuters reports Rosen insisted that, “the probe is not being driven by political factors.” “This is one of those issues that people from lots of different points of view are very concerned about,” he added. Reuters also reported in June that, “many states are likely to join a federal antitrust lawsuit against Google.”