By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Justice Department’s top antitrust official recently won approval from the department to oversee investigations involving Google parent Alphabet Inc, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters.
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the decision to allow Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general in charge of antitrust, to oversee matters involving the search engine and advertising company.
The Justice Department and Google declined to comment on Friday.
In November 2021, Google asked the Justice Department to consider requiring Kanter to recuse himself because of his work for a long list of Google critics like Yelp Inc, which Alphabet described as “vociferously advocating for an antitrust case against Google for years.”
Bloomberg News reported in May that Kanter had been barred from working on Google investigations as the department considered whether he was required to be recused.
On Wednesday, Google argued a U.S. judge should toss out a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against it, saying agreements it made with Apple Inc and others to make Google the default search engine do not bar smartphone makers from promoting rivals.
The case is set to go to trial in September. If Google loses, it could be forced to spin off key assets.
In December, Google asked a court to throw out both the antitrust case that the Justice Department filed in 2020 along with 11 states as well as a related complaint brought by 35 states led by Colorado.
The Justice Department’s October 2020 lawsuit alleges Google violated antitrust law in how it maintained dominance in search and search advertising. For example, it pointed to billions of dollars that Google paid annually to Apple, LG Electronics Inc and others to ensure Google search was the default on their devices.
Google faces additional allegations of antitrust violations from dozens of states. The lawsuit filed by Colorado and others, which was also filed in 2020, also alleges that Google illegally limits rivals’ ability to operate its Search Ads 360 tool, used by advertisers to manage online marketing campaigns.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)