January 26, 2021

Mississippi joins Texas lawsuit against Google over ‘monopolistic power’ concerns

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday announced a multistate lawsuit against Google, accusing the search giant of “anti-competitive conduct” in the online advertising industry.

Paxton said Google is using its “monopolistic power” to control pricing of online advertisements, fixing the market in its favor and eliminating competition. His office released a redacted copy of a federal lawsuit, but it was not immediately clear if it had been filed in court.

“This Goliath of a company is using its power to manipulate the market, destroy competition, and harm you, the consumer,” Paxton said in the video posted on Twitter.

Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, called Paxton’s claims “meritless” and said the price of online advertising has fallen over the last decade.

“These are the hallmarks of a highly competitive industry,” the company said in statement. “We will strongly defend ourselves from (Paxton’s) baseless claims in court.”

Texas is bringing the suit along with Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah, according to the complaint released by Paxton’s office.

“Google’s exclusionary practices not only locked out competition, which distorts the market and reduces innovation,” Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said. “But also the company’s misrepresentations to consumers, particularly regarding their privacy, cause real harm to consumers. I joined this lawsuit to protect competition and innovation in our technology markets and to protect consumer privacy for all Mississippians.”

Paxton’s move comes after the U.S. Justice Department sued Google in October for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising — the government’s most significant attempt to buttress competition since its historic case against Microsoft two decades ago.

Separately, the FBI is investigating whether Paxton, a close ally of President Donald Trump, broke the law in using his office to help a wealthy donor who is also under federal investigation. This fall, eight of the attorney general’s top deputies accused him of bribery, abuse of office and other crimes in the service of an Austin real estate developer who employs a woman with whom Paxton is said to have had an extramarital affair.

All eight of Paxton’s accusers have since been fired or resigned, including the deputy attorney general who had been leading the office’s probe of Google. The complaint released by Paxton’s office list attorneys with private firms in Houston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., as the lead lawyers on the case.

Paxton announced the lawsuit the week after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his legal push to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, a case that prompted widespread speculation that the attorney general is angling for a preemptive pardon from Trump.