Google’s CEO approved an agreement with Facebook at the heart of an antitrust lawsuit filed by 16 states and Puerto Rico against the search giant, according to part of the complaint revealed Friday.
The lawsuit, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, alleges that Google has obtained and misused a monopoly on the network of technology used to display online advertisements.
When publishers started using an alternative system to sell their ad space, Google tried to undermine it by creating a similar system it operated, the lawsuit said. The states state that Google has signed a deal with Facebook to make the social network work together in an effort to “kill” the publishers’ competing scheme.
In the new unedited portion of the lawsuit filed in federal court, the states said Sundar Pichai, the company’s CEO since 2015, “also personally signed the terms of the deal.”
The newly exposed portions of the lawsuit also detail programs that the states say Google misled buyers and sellers of ad space about the exact nature of the auctions they participated in, allowing Google to make more money in the process.
A Google spokesperson said the complaint is “still full of inaccuracies and of no legal value”.
“We sign hundreds of agreements every year that don’t require CEO approval, and it was no different,” the spokesperson said.
In another new public section, the states cite a February 2017 “Facebook document” stating that Google wanted to “kill” the competing system and that Facebook “will significantly help baptizing their product.”
At one point, Facebook employees working on the deal emailed Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, saying, “We’re almost ready to sign and need your approval to proceed.” Mr. Zuckerberg’s name has still been removed from the lawsuit, but his title has not.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said the deal with Google “and the similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements.”
The antitrust lawsuit is one of many filed by government agencies against tech giants in the past two years. The Department of Justice and a group of states have sued Google, alleging it abused its monopoly on online search. This week, a judge said the Federal Trade Commission could move forward with a lawsuit against Facebook. Apple and Amazon are also facing antitrust investigations.
The judge in the case has said that Google has until next Friday to respond to the latest version of the lawsuit. Google plans to ask the judge to drop the case, a spokesperson said.