U.S. Google Antitrust Case Set to Expand With GOP States Joining
The Alphabet Inc. Google search page is displayed on a laptop computer in an arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn Borough of New York, U.S. (Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)

U.S. Google Antitrust Case Set to Expand With GOP States Joining

About a dozen states, mostly led by Republicans, are expected to join the Justice Department’s upcoming antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Nearly every state attorney general is investigating the company in a parallel probe focused on the company’s online advertising business and led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton could join the Justice Department case while readying his own complaint, which is likely to remain separate, one of the people said.

The states have not yet viewed a full complaint from the Justice Department, which is likely to affect how many sign on, said two of the people. More states could also decide to join the case after it’s filed.

Different states have focused on other parts of Google’s sprawling business lines, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing confidential matters. Even after the case is filed in the coming weeks, some Democratic-led states could continue to investigate other aspects of Google’s business and could bring an additional case in the coming months, the people said.

A bipartisan group of attorneys general is investigating potentially anticompetitive conduct involving Google’s Android mobile operating system, one of the people said. Some states oppose including Android in a complaint because it would be too broad, another person said.

The Justice Department has investigated both Google’s flagship internet search business and its position in the online ad market, Bloomberg has reported.

Representatives from Google and Texas didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit is expected to be the most significant antitrust action in the U.S. in the roughly two decades since the government sued Microsoft Corp. in 1998.

The divisions among the states over the investigation come as critics, including some congressional Democrats, have accused President Donald Trump’s Justice Department, under Attorney General William Barr, of politicizing antitrust enforcement. As Trump fights for re-election in November, he has claimed Google is trying to manipulate information online to benefit the left.

Some Democrats are pushing for enforcers to move faster. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Barr critic who has proposed breaking up online platforms including Google, wrote in a series of tweets on Thursday that “the case against Google is clear” and big tech companies should not be able to use concerns about Barr as a way to avoid antitrust action.

“For the good of our country, we must demand our regulators do their jobs & take swift, aggressive action -- not kick the can down the road one more time,” she wrote.

In a letter dated Friday, a number of progressive groups also wrote to the nonpartisan National Association of Attorneys General about Google, saying “that the time for this enforcement action to proceed is now.”

State and federal enforcers frequently team up in antitrust probes. During the investigation phase, it’s common for splits between the U.S. and the states to occur and for some states to decline to join the lawsuit in the end. Some 18 states and the District of Columbia joined the Justice Department in its 1998 lawsuit against Microsoft.

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