Is the US DOJ too Docile with Google

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Reports by the WSJ and the NY Times both point to likely antitrust activity against Google by the US DOJ. CNET and others report that there is dissent within the ranks of the lawyers and AGs doing the investigations with some feeling rushed because they have not completed their investigations. A rush to file the case may actually result in a more docile action against Google. One could make the argument that by purposefully moving too fast the DOJ is giving Google a cake-walk with a potential future slap on the wrist rather than a deep-dive with supporting evidence which might have a far more material impact on the company.

According to reports, the Democratic AGs and some of the DOJ lawyers expressed longanimity, and were intent on waiting until investigations and discovery had reached a critical mass of evidence. Others just wanted to move forward quickly.

Google is huge and with size comes power, perhaps too much power. Also when organizations are publicly traded, sometimes mid or senior level management are held to P&L or growth goals that might cause them to push the envelope a bit.

Corporate pressures can result in monopolistic behavior, regardless of whether or not it was originally intended that way.

For the last year or more State AGs and the DOJ have been digging around the many business practices of Google, making assessments to determine if antitrust action is necessary, and if so to what extent.

In my opinion, either maliciously or inadvertently, Google has indeed trampled over the advertising, marketing and media industry engaging in monopolistic behavior.

Google also does a tremendous amount of good with Google.org, an employee policy allowing time to be donated to projects including nonprofits, and by setting standards. It’s a delicate balance between good and evil. The balance may have shifted a bit too far towards being self-serving at the expense of the industry as a whole.

Back in the early days of Google, one could rely on senior management as generally doing the right thing. In 2018 Google quietly removed the phrase “do no evil” from its code of conduct. Some of us in the industry smiled to ourselves realizing just how difficult it is for a publicly-traded tech company to adhere to that code.