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US Judge Rules Against Google, Keeps DOJ Advertising Case In Virginia

A Google LLC logo is seen at the Google offices in the Chelsea section of New York City, U.S., January 20, 2023.

A U.S. federal judge on Friday rejected a bid by Alphabet Inc’s Google to move a Justice Department lawsuit against it over dominance in advertising technology from Virginia to New York.

“I am going to rule against you,” Judge Leonie Brinkema told an attorney for Google.

The government, which filed the ad tech lawsuit in January along with eight states, accused the company of abusing its dominance of the digital advertising business and argued that it should be forced to sell its ad manager suite. Google’s online advertising network, which includes ad manager, brought in 12% of the company’s revenue in 2021.

Google has denied any wrongdoing in running its ad tech business. It declined to respond to a request for comment on whether it planned to appeal the venue ruling, but said it would “continue to set the record straight and show how we compete fairly in a highly dynamic and crowded industry.”

The Virginia federal court has the reputation of being a “rocket docket” that decides cases quickly. The New York judge is hearing similar claims but from many plaintiffs, including a case brought by the Texas attorney general in 2020. It is expected to move more slowly.

Eric Mahr, an attorney for Google, argued that there was a risk the two courts would come up with conflicting judgments.

Justice Department attorney Julia Wood said there would be significant inefficiencies for the federal government if it were required to join the larger case being heard in New York.

Wood also said there were “meaningful differences” between the Justice Department’s case and many of the New York cases. “We respectfully request the court retain jurisdiction,” she said in a hearing.

The Justice Department’s ad tech lawsuit follows a separate lawsuit filed in 2020, the tail end of the Trump administration, that accused Google of violating antitrust law to maintain its dominance in search. That case goes to trial in September.

The lawsuit comes as the Biden administration seeks to toughen antitrust enforcement. Not only is it seeking to rein in a tech giant with its Google suit, but it has a long list of merger challenges.

The search and advertising giant, which also makes a smartphone operating system and owns YouTube, faces antitrust lawsuits around the world with most based on abuse of dominance of one sort or another.