Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and parent company Alphabet, has self-approved what the states say is an illegal agreement with Facebook to manipulate the digital advertising market.
Details of Pichai’s alleged signing of the transaction were revealed on January 14 in an antitrust complaint filed against Google from a coalition of states led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s head. The lawsuit, first filed in December 2020, accuses Google of abusing its power over the vast digital ecosystem where online ads are bought and sold.
Central to the complaint is a 2018 agreement between Google and Facebook, in which Google is code-named Jedi Blue. According to the states, the deal is intended to “kill” a Facebook-backed advertising tool that is gaining popularity with publishers.
According to the state’s allegation, Google sees Facebook’s role as a competitive threat to its business lucrative advertising And to get Facebook to give up the publisher-favorite alternative, Google agreed to give Facebook an edge in online ad auctions through its technology.
According to new court filings, Mr. Pichai signed the terms of the agreement himself. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Meta Platforms, Facebook’s parent company, does the same. Ms. Sandberg described the deal with Google as “a big strategic deal” in an email sequence that included Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
In a statement, Google said its advertising business operates in a highly competitive market. The technology company also countered the claims of the states, saying that “the complaint represented by Mr. Paxton is inaccurate information and lacks legal validity”.
Facebook is not a defendant in the state’s lawsuit. In a statement, Facebook said that the agreement with Google increases competition for ad placements, benefiting publishers and advertisers.