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Google reluctant to hand over documents in multistate antitrust probe: WSJ

Google reluctant to hand over documents in multistate antitrust probe: WSJ
© Greg Nash

Google is declining to hand over certain documents and raising concerns about anti-Google bias amid the multistate antitrust investigation into its digital advertising practices, according to a new Wall Street Journal report

Google lawyers have been pushing back on the scope and scale of some document requests from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who has been leading the 48-state investigation, the Journal reported. And Google is continuing to raise concerns about some of the experts that Paxton's office has tapped to help with the antitrust investigation, pointing out several of those consultants have worked with Google rivals or critics.

A Google spokeswoman said the back-and-forth with Texas over particular documents is a standard part of any legal inquiry. She said Google has had similar discussions about the scope of document requests with regulatory bodies around the world.

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“It's standard practice to discuss the scope of document requests. To date, Texas has requested, and we have provided, over 100,000 pages of information," a Google spokeswoman said. "We have a strong track record of constructive cooperation with regulators around the world. But we're also concerned with the irregular way this investigation is proceeding, including unusual arrangements with advisers who work with our competitors and vocal complainants." 

Paxton, meanwhile, told the Journal, “Every indication right now is they don’t believe that they’re clean because they don’t act in any way like they are." 

According to documents reviewed by the Journal, Google has been reluctant to hand over personal communications from executives at the company and private messages among particular Google employees. 

A source familiar told The Hill that the team looking into Google in Texas changed over the course of their correspondence, creating delays, and Google is planning to produce more documents on key topics.

Last year, Google filed a petition in a Texas court seeking assurances that consultants working on Paxton's multistate investigation into the company will not leak any confidential information to Google's rivals. In a petition filed with the state District Court of Travis County, Google raised concerns over two consultants, in particular, both of whom have worked for Google competitors or antagonists.

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The tech giant and its parent company, Alphabet, asked the Texas judge to place safeguards around what those consultants can share as the antitrust investigation moves forward. 

Even as that effort moves forward, however, Google said it has continued producing documents to Paxton's office.  

A coalition of 50 attorneys general has signed onto the investigation into Google, which is looking into whether the company potentially violated antitrust law as it became a titan of the tech industry.