Texas is suing Google for witholding, according to legal documents, “a large volume of documents” requested as part of two investigations by the state into the company “to determine whether Google has violated state and federal antitrust laws.”
Google continues to be plagued by competitors’ allegations that the company gives special preference to its own products and services in its search rankings.. The two investigations — called Civil Investigative Demands, or CIDs — by the state of Texas, were launched in July 2010 and May 2011 for similar reasons, and the tech giant is also currently under fire from federal lawmakers and the European Union
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot — along with several other various high-level state law enforcement officials — filed the suit Monday on behalf of the Antitrust Division of the State of Texas to force Google. They are demanding, through court order, that Google hand over documents being withheld under attorney-client privilege.
The company had already produced several hundred thousand documents to the state on a rolling basis beginning in August 2010, but Texas is demanding more after Google told the state that 14,500 documents were being withheld under attorney-client privilege. Abbot contends that Google has not “met its burden of demonstrating that the privilege is applicable to many of the documents in question.”
An email between a Google vice president and his superior inadvertently released to Abbot’s office among the several thousand documents is what caught the state attorney general’s attention. The email, Abbot lays out in the filing, is not between attorney’s — although it was labeled to be protected by attorney-client privilege — and it “makes no reference to legal advice.”
“The email at issue is a communication between non-lawyer Google executives discussing their recommendation to change how Google uses review content from competing sites and the process for presenting this recommendation to Google’s management for discussion and decision,” said the filing. Google’s counsel requested that the Attorney General’s office delete all copies of that email, which Abbot refuses to do.
“The document is highly relevant to the conduct being investigated by the Attorney General’s office,” said the filing.
Abbot contends in the filing that it believes that the representative sampling of documents it prepared for the court to review “will likely demonstrate that Google has significantly overreached in its effort to prevent disclosure of documents to the CIDs,” and that it would provide the Court with the privilege log of entries for these documents, and including the redacted versions, to review.
Google did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment by the time of publication.
Update: In a statement to TheDC, a Google spokesperson said, “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.”