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Google and South Carolina Clash Over State Records Demand

 |  May 8, 2024

Alphabet’s Google presented its case before the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, urging the court to compel a South Carolina state agency to hand over internal records to be used in its defense against accusations of monopolizing the digital advertising market. The tech giant’s plea comes amidst a legal challenge launched by Texas and nine other states in 2020, alleging Google’s abuse of power in the display ads market and overcharging for advertising technology.

A lower court had previously ruled in favor of Google’s request for the documents, prompting an appeal. The central issue at hand is whether the state agency can claim immunity from Google’s demands. Google has said it is seeking insights from the agency’s assessments of its products and competitors, crucial for its defense strategy.

Read more: Why This Google Antitrust Lawsuit Has Promise

Attorney Walker Humphrey, representing the state agency, argued that not all actions by a state attorney general necessarily represent the entire state’s interests. He emphasized the need to distinguish between actions taken by the AG and those representing the entire state. Conversely, Google’s lawyer, Jason LaFond, contended that South Carolina’s involvement in the antitrust litigation inherently encompasses the entire state, implying that the state agencies’ interests are intertwined with the state itself.

During the proceedings, Judge Stephanie Thacker expressed concern over the delineation of which state agencies are directly represented by the attorney general’s claims, suggesting a need for clarity in this regard. Humphrey proposed a rule whereby each state agency could assert its own immunity against subpoenas, advocating for a more nuanced approach as litigation continues in a Texas federal court, with Google denying the allegations leveled against it.

Source: Reuters