January 28, 2021

Texas attorney general promises new antitrust lawsuit against Google

Sundar Pichai of Google testifies before the House Judiciary Committee as seen via YouTube on a laptop in Washington, DC on July 29, 2020.

Carolyn Van Houten | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Google is set to face a new antitrust lawsuit from a group of state attorneys general led by Texas, this time targeting its advertising technology services.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a video announcing the lawsuit that Google has used its alleged monopoly power to control pricing and “engage in market collusion to rig auctions.”

“Google effectively eliminated its competition and crowned itself the head of online advertising,” Paxton said in the video.

The lawsuit alleges that Google’s 2008 acquisition of ad tech company DoubleClick marked a “fundamental change” where the company began to “exert leverage” as a middle man to extract payments from all steps of the complex online ad-buying process.

The full complaint had not yet been publicly released as of Wednesday afternoon. An open docket listed nine Republican-led states as co-plaintiffs: Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

“If the free market were a baseball game, Google positioned itself as the pitcher, the batter and the umpire,” Paxton said.

“Attorney General Paxton’s ad tech claims are meritless, yet he’s gone ahead in spite of all the facts,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We’ve invested in state-of-the-art ad tech services that help businesses and benefit consumers. Digital ad prices have fallen over the last decade. Ad tech fees are falling too. Google’s ad tech fees are lower than the industry average. These are the hallmarks of a highly competitive industry.¬†We will strongly defend ourselves from his baseless claims in court.”

The lawsuit follows a separate complaint from the Department of Justice claiming Google has illegally maintained a monopoly in online general search services by cutting off competitors from key distribution channels. Texas, which also joined ten other Republican state attorneys general in the DOJ suit, had led a large multi-state probe into Google’s ad tech business beginning last year.

A third antitrust lawsuit is expected to be filed against Google as soon as Thursday from another coalition of bipartisan state AGs, Politico reported on Tuesday. That suit is also expected to target Google’s search services, but focus on how its changing design has disadvantaged competitors, according to Politico.

Paxton has recently entered the public consciousness for different reasons. Senior officials in his office asked law enforcement to investigate their boss over accusations of bribery, local media reported in October. Paxton has called the allegations “false.”

Paxton also recently led an effort to challenge the results of the U.S. presidential election by asking the Supreme Court for permission to sue four battleground states that President-elect Joe Biden won. The Supreme Court denied that request.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

-CNBC’s Ylan Mui contributed to this report.

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