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Texas AG slaps Google with suit over withheld documents

The antitrust investigation filed against the Web giant by the state of Texas two years ago is compounded by a new civil lawsuit alleging Google refuses to handover "privileged" documents.

The Texas Attorney General seems unhappy with Google. What started as an antitrust lawsuit two years ago has now morphed into an investigation into the Web giant's alleged attempts to withhold documents from the Lone Star State.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a civil lawsuit against Google this week alleging that the search engine has redacted or refused to turn over documentation based on false attorney-client privilege, according to AllThingsD. Supposedly, Google has refused to hand over 14,500 documents claiming attorney-client privilege. Abbott said some of these documents are indeed protected, however, many others are not.

Here's what the complaint says:

While Google has produced a significant volume of documents in response to the CIDs, Google has withheld a large volume of documents based on assertion of the attorney-client privilege and has claimed that certain documents that were produced are, in fact, privileged, and should be destroyed or returned to Google. Google has not met its burden of demonstrating that the privilege is applicable to many of the documents in question.

When contacted for comment, a Google spokesperson told CNET, "We have shared hundreds of thousands of documents with the Texas attorney general, and we are happy to answer any questions that regulators have about our business."

All documents pertain to an antitrust investigation that the Texas AG brought against Google in 2010. The suit alleges that the company manipulated search results specifically in areas of shopping, local businesses, and travel therefore violating state and federal antitrust laws. In February 2011, Abbott demanded Google turn over documents for the case. It appears the suit filed today relates to these same documents.

Here is more information in the complaint regarding Google's alleged refusal to handover the documents:

On May 3, 2012, Google's counsel wrote a letter to the Attorney General's Office identifying eleven documents containing an allegedly privileged e-mail and requesting that the attorney general delete all copies of these documents. The e-mail in question is from one Google vice president to his superior. Though the e-mail begins with a header noting that it purports to be "Attorney Client Priveleged [sic]," neither the author nor the recipient is an attorney and the content of the email makes no reference to legal advice. Six other Google employees, including one in-house Google attorney, are copied on the e-mail.

Here is the entire complaint:

Google Petition _6-18-12 FILE STAMP_ _1_