Google turns to court to protest ties to rivals in antitrust probe

The search giant objects to consultants involved with the investigation, who used to work for News Corp and Microsoft.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read
Angela Lang/CNET

Google says it wants to keep its confidential information from reaching rivals during a high-profile antitrust investigation by state attorneys general. The company on Thursday filed a motion with a Texas court, protesting the hiring of two consultants who had previously worked for Google foes including News Corp and Microsoft

In September, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced an antitrust probe into Google's massive digital advertising business. The investigation has the participation of AGs from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. As part of the probe, Paxton's office last month sent Google a civil investigative demand, asking for key information about its ad operation and data collection policies. 

But Google is objecting to some of the consultants who would be working on the probe because sensitive data "could be inappropriately disclosed to and used by its adversaries," Google said in the motion. 

"We've provided millions of pages of documents in response to regulatory inquiries, and we're committed to cooperating," a Google spokesman said. "But this is an extraordinarily irregular arrangement, and it's only fair to have assurances that our confidential business information won't be shared with competitors or vocal complainants."

Watch this: Google under investigation over its digital ad business

Google specifically protested the involvement of Cristina Caffarra, a vice president at Charles River Associates, who has worked for News Corp, Microsoft and Google's Russian search rival Yandex. Caffarra "has widely marketed her anti-Google experience," Google wrote in its motion. The company also called out the hiring of Eugene Burrus, an adviser at McKinsey who spent 15 years at Microsoft as assistant general counsel. 

Caffarra and Burrus didn't respond to requests for comment. 

The Texas Attorney General's Office said it had been in "good-faith negotiations" with Google about "appropriate confidentiality provisions," Marc Rylander, director of communications, said in a statement. "Google's petition is nothing more than an effort to hamstring the investigation," he said. "But Google is not entitled to choose the states' expert or run the states' investigation." 

Aside from the states antitrust probe, Google is also under scrutiny from federal regulators. Google in July acknowledged that it was under investigation by the Justice Department.

Update, 4:36 p.m. PT: Adds comment from the Texas attorney general's office. 

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