Former R.I. AG says Google 'thumbing its nose' at investigators

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jun 25, 2012



WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A former state attorney general says search engine giant Google is "thumbing its nose" at law enforcement officials by refusing to release certain documents in an ongoing probe over the company's possible antitrust violations.

Patrick Lynch, former Rhode Island Attorney General and former president of the National Association of Attorneys General, came out in support of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's request last week for a court order to force Google to hand over the documents.

The company is refusing to turn over more than 14,000 documents -- including emails and other records -- covered in formal demands by Abbott's office in July 2010 and May 2011.

"Google has once again thumbed its nose at the attorneys general and law enforcement agencies around the world who are seeking information to shed light on serious and credible allegations that Google is illegally abusing its monopoly power in ways that deprive consumers of choice, harm innovators, and raises the cost for all organizations who use the Internet to reach new customers," Lynch said in a statement last week.

"Texas and other governments investigating Google are now experiencing what millions of businesses and other organizations face every day with Google: an unaccountable black box that believes it is above the law."

Lynch, who currently serves as an advisor to a coalition of businesses and organizations called FairSearch.org, said if the company has nothing to hide then its co-founder and CEO, Larry Page, will comply with the formal requests for information.

"Those policies are now under review by attorneys general in Texas and five other states, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and European Commission, and other jurisdictions internationally," Lynch explained.

"Unfortunately, Google's inaction in Texas mirrors its delay and obstruction of the FCC's investigation of the Google Street View mapping project, its non-compliance with a civil subpoena from U.S. Sen. (Richard) Blumenthal when he was the Connecticut AG, the Korean competition authorities who sought information from the company, and many other governments and law enforcement agencies."

Lynch, who in October authored a letter introducing a FairSearch.org paper asking all 50 state attorneys general to investigate Google, said "trust us" simply won't do.

"It's past time for Google to cooperate with investigations around the world," he said.

"If the company is not willing to play ball, attorneys general and others will have to force Google to change its practices."

Texas is among a handful of states -- including California, Ohio and New York -- doing full-scale investigations into the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

In September 2010, Abbott announced his office was officially looking into Google's methods for recommending websites.

The investigation was spurred by complaints that Google has abused its power as the Internet's most dominant search engine.

Such allegations were levied against the company by UK-based Foundem, New York-based SourceTool and TradeComet, and Ohio-based myTriggers.

Months later, Abbott requested information from Google about its advertising rate formula and search result rankings. Investigators with Abbott's office were looking for documents that showed "manual overriding or altering of" search result rankings.

The Attorney General's Office also wanted documents on rivals Bing and Yahoo! and any complaints about buying an ad on the search engine.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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