Bloomberg is reporting that Ohio Attorney General (AG) Mike DeWine is the latest figure considering an antitrust investigation against Google. So is Wisconsin’s AG, but specifically around the proposed ITA acquisition. Texas is already conducting its own broad antitrust investigation against Google.
Google is formally under antitrust investigation by the European Commission. In addition, Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl has said that his Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights committee will be looking at Google this Congressional session.
Missouri Just Wants to Help
Beyond this, Bloomberg reports, Attorney General Chris Koster of Missouri “offered to assist the Justice Department’s investigation of Google’s planned purchase of ITA.” How nice that he wants to help out the Justice Department.
The Microsoft antitrust case involved quite a few states in its early stages so this movement by individual AGs is not unprecedented; in fact, quite the opposite. To some degree the AGs’ attentions reflect legitimate concern about Google’s size and influence. But there’s also a major PR motivation behind all the saber rattling and AG activity.
AGs Looking for a Little PR
Attorneys General are elected officials and saying that you’re considering a Google antitrust investigation — or actually initiating one — is a sure fire way to get publicity for yourself, if you’re running for reelection or considering running for governor or Congress.
What’s more, if other AGs are leading the charge and piling on then you certainly wouldn’t want your state and office to be left out.
These inquiries and investigations are all over the place and so it’s a gigantic legal and bureaucratic headache for Google to comply with document requests and other legal process in Europe (multiple countries), the US and various states.
For the time being I’ll avoid analysis of the merits or hypothetical outcomes of these existing and potential investigations. But I will say that I’m glad I’m not working in Google’s legal department.