The Justice Department and some state attorneys general are reportedly likely to file antitrust lawsuits against Google focused on how it has used its search dominance in the online advertising business.
The Justice Department will likely bring a case as soon as this summer, and some state attorneys general will likely file a case in the fall, according to the Wall Street Journal. The states will be led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican. DOJ Attorney General William Barr has been leading the Google probe and has considered it a top priority.
The Justice Department and the states’ investigation has focused on allegedly anti-competitive conduct in Google’s online advertising business fueled by its dominance in the search engine sphere, connecting online publishers and advertisers to hundreds of millions of users.
Regarding the Google investigation, Barr told the Wall Street Journal in March, “I’m hoping that we bring it to fruition early summer, and by fruition I mean, decision time.”
Paxton said in a statement that the states have already “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 bipartisan coalition of the top legal officers from 50 states and territories, led by Paxton, announced last September that they would investigate Google’s alleged monopolistic practices.
Furthermore, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim told the Washington Examiner in November that the Justice Department’s investigation into online platforms would focus on the possibility that tech firms, such as Google, had used data they had gathered from customers to block competitors from markets they manage.
The lawsuits, if filed, could present a significant threat to Google’s business model and would be one of the most prominent antitrust cases in U.S. history, alongside the famous Microsoft antitrust case of the late 1990s. Critics of Google want a range of punishments against the online search giant, from forcing it to change some of its business activities to an entire breakup of the company.
Google has not pushed back against the investigation or the claims.
“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,” a Google spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.