Google, Facebook CEOs colluding in online advertising

New unproven documents from a state-led antitrust lawsuit against Google allege collusion with rival Facebook to manipulate online ad sales. The lawsuit alleges that the CEOs of both companies were aware of the deal and signed it.

The original, amended lawsuit, filed in December 2021, accused Google of “anti-competitive conduct” and colluding with the social networking giant. But the unpublished version provides details about the involvement of Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in approving the deal. Facebook has since changed its name to Meta.

According to the lawsuit, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg was “clearly ‘this is a big deal strategically'” about the deal involving the Facebook CEO in a 2018 email thread. While the names of Facebook executives have still been revised in the suit, their titles are visible.

When both parties rejected the terms of the agreement, “the team sent an email addressed directly to the CEO” Zuckerberg, the lawsuit says.

According to the complaint, the email reads, “We are almost ready to sign and need your approval to proceed.” The complaint said Zuckerberg wanted to meet with Sandberg and his other executives before making a decision.

In a statement, Google spokesman Peter Schottenfels said the lawsuit is “full of inaccuracies and lacks legal merit.”

In September 2018, the complaint says, the two companies signed the agreement. Sandberg, who was once the head of Google’s advertising business, and Pichai personally signed the deal, according to the states’ complaint.

Meta spokesman Chris Sgro said Friday that the company’s ad bidding agreement with Google and similar agreements with other bidding platforms “helped increase competition for ad placements.”

“These business relationships enable Meta to deliver greater value to advertisers while properly compensating publishers, resulting in better outcomes for everyone,” Sgro said.

According to the lawsuit, internally, Google used the code phrase “J.D. Blue” to refer to the 2018 agreement. Google kept this code phrase a secret.

Google’s Schottenfels said the lawsuit’s allegation that Pichai approved the deal with Facebook “is not accurate.”

“We sign hundreds of agreements every year that don’t require CEO approval, and this was no different,” he said, adding that “the agreement was never a secret.”

The lawsuit is led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and joined by the Attorney Generals of Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Was. Dakota and Utah.

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