According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, officials at the Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general are focused on Google’s ad business and how it has used its search monopoly.
According to the WSJ, the DOJ is planning to bring a case as early as this summer, while state AGs are likely to file a case in the fall.
The Wall Street Journal reports that both the Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general are likely to file an antitrust lawsuits against Google and have already begun to plan litigation according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
The Justice Department is reportedly planning to bring a case as early as this summer. A large group of state attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republicans, will also reportedly file a case in the fall.
The WSJ writes:
Much of the states’ investigation has focused on Google’s online advertising business. The company owns the dominant tool at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers. The Justice Department likewise is making Google’s ad technology one of its points of emphasis. But it is also focusing more broadly on concerns that Google uses its dominant search business to stifle competition, people familiar with the matter said.
Details about the Justice Department’s legal theories for a case against Google couldn’t be learned.
Though the coronavirus pandemic has complicated work for the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr has devoted considerable resources to the Google probe and continues to treat it as a top priority. Mr. Barr told The Wall Street Journal in March that he wanted the Justice Department to make a final call this summer. “I’m hoping that we bring it to fruition early summer,” Mr. Barr said at the time. “And by fruition I mean, decision time.”
Paxton stated that the pandemic was not slowing the states’ efforts, saying in a statement: “We’ve issued [civil subpoenas] to Google and impacted third parties. We hope to have the investigation wrapped up by fall. If we determine that filing is merited we will go to court soon after that.”
A Google spokesperson said in a statement: “We continue to engage with the ongoing investigations led by the Department of Justice and Attorney General Paxton, and we don’t have any updates or comments on speculation. Our focus is firmly on providing services that help consumers, support thousands of businesses and enable increased choice and competition.”
The department is reportedly gathering further information in its probe and will likely be bringing a case but both the federal and state investigations are ongoing and no final decisions have been made.
Google was fined $1.7 billion for antitrust violations by European Union officials in 2019. The firm was also fined a record $5 billion in 2018 over the dominance of its Android mobile operating system, and in 2017 Google was fined $2.7 billion for practices relating to its shopping service.