The Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google as soon as this month, after Attorney General William P. Barr overruled career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case against one of the world’s wealthiest, most formidable technology companies, according to five people briefed on internal department conversations.
Justice Department officials told lawyers involved in the antitrust inquiry into Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, to wrap up their work by the end of September, according to three of the people. Most of the 40-odd lawyers who had been working on the investigation opposed the deadline. Some said they would not sign the complaint, and several of them left the case this summer.
Brianna Herlihy, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on the continuing investigation. Jose Castaneda, a spokesman for Google, said that the company would “continue to engage with ongoing investigations” and that its business practices enabled “increased choice and competition.”
The Justice Department amassed powerful evidence of anticompetitive practices, three people said.
But the lawyers also described internal politics that at times slowed down the department’s work or drove a wedge among members of the team.
For nearly a year, dozens of Justice Department lawyers and other staff members worked in two groups, each overseeing a separate line of inquiry: Google’s dominance in search and its control over many aspects of the ecosystem for online advertising.
Google controls about 90 percent of web searches globally, and rivals have complained that the company extended its dominance by making its search and browsing tools defaults on phones with its Android operating system. Google also captures about one-third of every dollar spent on online advertising, and its ad tools are used to supply and auction ads that appear across the internet.
TL;DR: Antitrust scrutiny of Big Tech seems to have picked up with Google in the Trump Administrations crosshairs. Despite broad bipartisan support in Congress and amongst 50 state AGs, there seems to be some politicking, or at least the appearance of such, that could slow down the government’s case. AG Barr wants to file charge against Google by the end of September.