Google CEO Sundar Pichai signed agreement at center of antitrust case, states say

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Google’s chief executive has approved a settlement with Facebook at the center of an antitrust lawsuit that 16 states and Puerto Rico have filed against the search giant, according to a portion of the lawsuit unsealed Friday.

The lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, argues that Google has obtained and abused a monopoly through the network of technology used to deliver online advertisements.

When publishers began using an alternative system to sell their ad space, Google worked to undermine it by creating a similar system that controlled it, according to the suit. The states argue that Google struck a deal with Facebook for the social network to join its effort to “kill” the publishers’ competing plan.

In the new unredacted portion of the lawsuit, filed in federal court, the states said Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive officer since 2015, “also personally signed the terms of the settlement.”

The newly unsealed portions of the lawsuit also include details of programs the states say Google used to mislead buyers and sellers of ad space about the precise nature of the auctions they were participating in, allowing Google to earn more. money in the process.

A Google spokesman said the complaint “was still riddled with inaccuracies and lacks legal merit.”

“We sign hundreds of deals each year that don’t require CEO approval, and this was no different,” the spokesperson said.

In another recent public part, the states cite a February 2017 “Facebook document” that says Google wanted to “kill” the competitor’s system and that Facebook “baptizing their product would help significantly.”

At one point, Facebook employees working on the deal emailed Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, saying, “We’re almost ready to sign and we need your approval to move forward.” Mr. Zuckerberg’s name is still redacted from the lawsuit, but his title is not.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said its deal with Google “and similar deals we have with other bidding platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements.”

The antitrust lawsuit is one of several brought by government agencies against tech giants in the past two years. The Justice Department and a group of states have sued Google, arguing that it has abused its monopoly on online search. This week, a judge said the Federal Trade Commission could move forward with a lawsuit against Facebook. Apple and Amazon are also facing antitrust investigations.

The judge in the case has said that Google has until next Friday to respond to the latest version of the lawsuit. Google plans to ask the judge to dismiss the case, its spokesman said.

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