By Diane Bartz and Paresh Dave
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. states plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google as early as next month, according to two people briefed on the matter, potentially beating a more widely anticipated lawsuit from a different group of states led by Texas.
The pending legal actions follow an antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department against Alphabet’s Google in October.
The bipartisan group — made up of Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah — is sometimes referred to as the Colorado/Nebraska group and has said it planned to combine its case with the federal government’s.
Google has broadly denied wrongdoing in response to the government’s lawsuit and other probes, and the company said that its search engine and other products are dominant because consumers prefer them.
Two people briefed on the matter said the Colorado/Nebraska group planned to file their lawsuit around mid-December, with one of the people saying a filing was expected in federal district court.
Texas led a group of attorneys general from 50 states and territories which announced a probe of Google in September 2019. Fast forward a year, and Texas is leading a group focused on online advertising technology while the Colorado/Nebraska group has a broader probe under way.
The Texas effort may be slowed by turmoil in the state attorney general’s office.
One source pointed to disruptions after recent media reports said the FBI was investigating accusations that Attorney General Ken Paxton abused his office to help a political donor. Several of Paxton’s aides, who had become whistleblowers, resigned or were fired, including people who were key to the Google investigation.
Texas has been aiming to find replacements, and it has promoted Shawn Cowles to be the deputy attorney general for civil litigation. But the turnover has led to delays.
The Texas attorney general’s office could not be reached for comment.
The Colorado/Nebraska group states’ broader inquiry contrasts with the Justice Department’s relatively narrow lawsuit, which focused on Google’s efforts to build and retain its dominance in search and its search advertising business.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Paresh Dave; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Cynthia Osterman)