Texas sues Google for 'withholding' documents from antitrust probe
That thing about making information easier to find ...
Google is being sued by the Texas Attorney General's office in the US, because - it has been alleged - the search giant "withheld" documents from a competition investigation of the company.
Texas AG Greg Abbott said in a state court filing that a "large volume" of paperwork had been sat on by Google, which claimed attorney-client privilege for not handing over the documents to the state.
Abbott sniffed that Google had failed to demonstrate why it had every right not to pass on those communications to his office.
Since September 2010, Google has been under an antitrust investigation in Texas over claims the company unfairly manipulated results on its search engine.
Google told All Things Digital:
We have shared hundreds of thousands of documents with the Texas Attorney General, and we are happy to answer any questions that regulators have about our business.
Meanwhile, an ongoing antitrust probe of Google in Europe is expected to reach its climax in the next few weeks.
European competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia told the company that it had until early July to offer up remedy proposals to avoid "lengthy proceedings" on "abuse of dominance" claims laid out in May this year.
And just yesterday, during a speech in London, the commissioner said:
It is well known that we have an ongoing investigation against Google where we have raised concerns that the company is using its dominance in online search to foreclose rival specialised search engines and search advertisers.
Speed is of the essence in the resolution of cases in fast moving markets. Normal antitrust procedures may take years. In fast-changing industries, there are cases in which commitment solutions are worth exploring provided, of course, that the companies concerned are ready to seriously address and solve the problems at stake.
We are currently negotiating a settlement solution in our investigation of the e-books market and have offered Google the opportunity to take that route.
In other words, Google needs to address all of the EC's concerns.
But, as recently as a few weeks ago, Google chairman Eric Schmidt insisted to The Register that his firm had done nothing wrong.
He did add that Google was "happy to be educated on the contrary," and apologised for offering up a "disappointing" response when he brushed aside questions about whether Mountain View would submit some or all of the remedies sought by Almunia. ®
The problem was they shared them on Google Docs, so no-one could find the doc they were looking for.
Re: "which claimed attorney-client privilege"
It goes like this:
"Hand over this big list of documents please."
"Here are half of them."
"Where's the other half?"
"Client-attorney privilege, we don't have to hand them over."
"Was it sent to an attorney, or was it legal advice?"
"No, but we wrote 'client attorney privilege' at the top of the email!"
"Not good enough. Hand them over."
"No! Make me!"
"Ok, see you in court."
From what I've read elsewhere, that's pretty much exactly what happened. Emails between senior google execs, not discussing legal advice, and not sent to any legal representatives, but with "client attorney privilege" written at the top so they don't have to disclose it to anyone. The court will likely disagree, just like they did with the famous 'Lindholm email" where google also tried this particular routine :)
Google thinking they're above the law
"In a quasi-Orwellian moment, a Google executive said that shareholders at the meeting could vote on this and the other proposals if they wanted, but that they had already been defeated."
Thye pull stuff like this and then go around talking about democracy and openness? Fuck them.