A PYMNTS Company

Google Pays Damages to US Government in Attempt to Avoid Jury Trial in Antitrust Case

 |  May 20, 2024

Google has preemptively paid damages to the U.S. government in hopes of avoiding a jury trial in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) high-profile antitrust lawsuit regarding the tech giant’s digital advertising business.

Google revealed the payment in a court filing last week, though it did not disclose the amount. Google argues that the absence of a monetary damages claim should preclude the need for a jury trial, suggesting that the case could be decided by a judge directly, per Reuters.

The DOJ filed the lawsuit last year, with support from the state of Virginia and others, accusing Google of monopolistic practices in the digital advertising sector. The government alleges that Google’s actions have stifled competition and have called for the company to divest its ad manager suite. Google has consistently denied these allegations.

Related: Google Requests Judge, Not Jury, to Decide on Antitrust Case

In its statement, Google criticized the DOJ’s approach, asserting that the agency “manufactured a damages claim at the last minute in an attempt to secure a jury trial.” The company maintains that its payment covers alleged overcharges for online ads, thus invalidating the need for a jury trial irrespective of whether the government accepts the payment.

The DOJ has yet to comment on Google’s filing or say whether it will accept the payment. The case is set to be reviewed in a hearing scheduled for June 21 in Alexandria, Virginia’s federal court. The trial, initially planned to be held before a jury, is slated to begin in September.

Legal experts are divided on the effectiveness of Google’s tactic. Mark Lemley from Stanford Law School expressed skepticism, suggesting that a jury could award higher damages than Google’s preemptive payment. “Antitrust cases regularly go to juries. I think it is a sign that Google is worried about what a jury will do,” Lemley noted.

Conversely, Herbert Hovenkamp of the University of Pennsylvania’s law school lauded Google’s move as “smart” in a post on X (formerly Twitter). He highlighted that juries are often ill-equipped to handle technical cases and lack the authority to mandate corporate breakups.

In a 2016 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an offer of “complete relief” does not nullify a class-action claim. However, Google argues its situation is different because it provided an actual check rather than just an offer.

Source: Reuters