Google avoids jury trial by sending $2.3 million check to US government

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Google achieved its goal of avoiding a jury trial in an antitrust case after sending a $2.3 million check to the US Department of Justice. Google will face a bench trial, a trial conducted by a judge without a jury, after it was ruled today that the precautionary check is large enough to cover any damages that could have been awarded by a jury.

“I am satisfied that the cashier’s check satisfies any claim for damages,” U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said after a hearing in the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday, according to Bloomberg. “A fair reading of the expert reports does not support” a higher amount, Brinkema said.

The check was reportedly for $2,289,751. “Because damages are no longer part of the case, Brinkema ruled that a jury is no longer necessary and she will oversee the trial, which is set to begin in September,” according to Bloomberg.

The payment was unusual, but so was the U.S. request for a jury trial because antitrust cases are typically heard by a judge without a jury. The United States argued that a jury should rule on damages because U.S. government agencies were overcharged for the advertising.

The United States opposed Google’s motion to quash the jury’s claim in a filing last week, arguing that “the check it provided did not actually compensate the United States for the full extent of the damages claimed” and that “the offer unilateral payment was improperly based on Google’s insistence that such payment ‘not be construed’ as an admission of damages.”

The government’s damage expert estimated damages that were “much higher” than the amount cited by Google, according to the US document. In last week’s filing, the largest amount of compensation requested by the government was eliminated.

Lawsuit targets Google advertising

The United States and eight states sued Google in January 2023 in a lawsuit related to the company’s advertising technology business. There are now 17 states involved in the case.

Google’s objection to a jury trial said that similar antitrust cases have been tried by judges because of their technical and often abstract nature. “To ensure this unusual stance, several weeks before filing the complaint, on the eve of Christmas 2022, Justice Department lawyers scrambled to find agencies on whose behalf they could seek damages,” Google said.

The US-state lawsuit claimed that Google “corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry” in a scheme to “neutralize or eliminate actual or potential ad tech competitors through a series of acquisitions” and “exercise its dominance in digital advertising markets.” to force more publishers and advertisers to use their products while disrupting their ability to use competing products effectively.”

The U.S. government’s lawsuit said federal agencies purchased more than $100 million in advertising since 2019 and aimed to recover triple damages for Google’s alleged overcharges on those purchases. But the government narrowed its claims to advertising purchases from just eight agencies, reducing the amount of potential damages.

Google sent the check in mid-May. While the amount was not initially public, Google said it contained “every dollar the United States could expect to recover based on the United States’ own expert’s damage calculation.” Google also said it “continues to dispute liability and welcomes a full resolution by this Court of all remaining claims in the Lawsuit.”

United States: we want more

The United States did not agree that $2.3 million was the maximum it could recover. “Under the law, Google must pay the United States the maximum amount it could recover at trial, which Google has not done,” the United States said. “And Google cannot condition its acceptance of that payment on its claim that the United States was not harmed in the first place. By doing so, Google is attempting to take advantage of the strategic advantage of satisfying the United States’ claim for damages (potentially giving it will allow you to avoid trial) by a jury) while avoiding the strategy Below “The United States is free to argue the common-sense inference that Google’s payment is, at a minimum, an acknowledgment of the harm caused to federal agency advertisers who used Google’s ad technology tools.”

In a filing Wednesday, Google said the Justice Department previously agreed that its claims amounted to less than $1 million before tripling pre-judgment interest. The check sent by Google was for the exact amount after treble and interest, according to the document. But “the Department of Justice now ignores this indisputable fact and offers an entirely new figure, not previously calculated by any Department of Justice expert, not supported by the record, and never disclosed,” Google told the court.

Siding with Google at today’s hearing, Brinkema “said the amount of Google’s check covered the highest possible amount the government had requested in its initial filings,” the Associated Press reported. “She likened receiving the money, which was paid unconditionally to the government regardless of whether the tech giant prevailed in her arguments for a jury trial, as equivalent to ‘receiving a wheelbarrow of cash.'”

While the United States lost its bid to obtain more damages than Google offered, the lawsuit also seeks an order declaring that Google illegally monopolized the market. The lawsuit asks for a breakup in which Google would have to divest “the Google Ad Manager suite, including Google’s publisher ad server, DFP, and Google’s ad exchange, AdX.”

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