@andreworlowski: Nothing says freedom like getting away with it: Google quietly takes gag off Mississippi AG after wrecking ads probe
Americans are freedom loving people, and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.
From Long Long Time, by Guy Forsyth
Andrew Orlowski reports in The Register:
Google has, without fanfare, dropped its legal action that muzzled an investigation into the ad giant’s conduct by the State of Mississippi.
The state’s elected attorney general, Democrat Jim Hood, has taken on Wall Street, the tobacco industry and the KKK, but even he must have been surprised by Google’s 44-page restraining order [PDF] in response to a wide-ranging 79-page subpoena [PDF] he filed against the corporation in 2014….
The subpoena into Google’s business practices focussed on whether the company was abiding by the terms of a 2012 non-prosecution agreement it signed with the US government’s Food and Drug Administration and Rhode Island State after a multi-agency sting operation.
Google agreed to forfeit $500m as part of that deal, which raised eyebrows for several reasons – one being that $230m of the forfeiture found its way to Rhode Island.
Hood pointed out that the four-year sting operation run against Google by a combination of federal agencies before a federal grand jury in Rhode Island showed that Google and its senior management team right up to Google’s CEO Larry Page was complicit in violating the Controlled Substances Act to the point of helping the bad guys get around Google’s own filters. Google paid a $500,000,000 forfeiture for those drug violations for advertising the sale of prescription drugs–not for what the advertisers did, but for what Google did.
Sorting through more than four million documents [that Hood was trying to get released by his subpoena], prosecutors found internal emails and documents that, they say, show Mr. Page was aware of the allegedly illicit ad sales. Under this week’s $500 million settlement, those emails won’t be released, avoiding the possibility of disclosure at trial.
“Larry Page knew what was going on,” Peter Neronha, the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney who led the probe, said in an interview. “We know it from the investigation. We simply know it from the documents we reviewed, witnesses that we interviewed, that Larry Page knew what was going on.” [Which is why Hood wanted to get at those documents.]
According to Google’s lawyer Boris Feldman speaking in open court on the record that the Department of Justice apologized to Google for the statement by Mr. Neronha (Transcript of hearing with Feldman statement at pp 11-12):
“The U.S. attorney in Rhode Island went off the reservation and gave a long interview about all the evidence and why it was he was so excited about the case,” lawyer Boris Feldman told the judge at a Delaware state court. “It ended up being so far off the reservation that the Justice Department apologized to Google for it and muzzled him.” (emphasis mine)
The rumor is that the apology was engineered by Amazon board member Jamie Gorelick, the former Clinton Deputy Attorney General who preceded Eric Holder (later Obama’s Attorney General who was in office when the apology was tendered).
In another Googley twist, Ms. Gorelick’s former protégé (special counsel to the deputy attorney general), Beth Wilkinson, was brought in to oversee the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust non-investigation investigation into Google for which it is now being prosecuted in Europe. Why? Because they just don’t have enough career prosecutors in the FTC who would let Google off the hook, I suppose. But I digress.
Ms. Gorelick represented Google in the negotiation of the deal with Holder that let Google executives keep the drug case away from a grand jury and use $500,000,000 of the shareholders’ money to pay for their own violations of law for which Google’s board and executive team was sued by stockholders (In re Google Inc. Shareholder Derivative Litigation).
Hood also asked about a curious section of the settlement of the shareholder lawsuit:
So Google demonstrated again that the only government that seems to be able to control them is…maybe…the European Commission.