Potential DOJ Lawsuits Against Apple, Google Delayed Due To Budget Issues

Another major concern for the department is the likely cost of a legal battle with the two companies, each of which has a market value of over $ 1,000 billion. That problem got more thorny this week when Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) torpedoed the Democrats’ Build Back Better package, which would have given the Justice Department a $ 500 million boost to enforcement. antitrust laws.

Senate Democrats pledge to vote on the $ 1.7 trillion bill in January anyway. The department could also get additional funds in other upcoming legislative packages, such as a bill passed by the Senate to help US compete with China.

For now, however, the DOJ is evaluating what antitrust cases can move forward with its current funding, although people have stressed that the decisions will be based on legal merits.

Justice Department spokesman Arlen Morales declined to comment. Google and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google and Apple probes: The department has been investigating Google’s ad technology activities and Apple’s lucrative App Store since 2019, investigations that continued even after DOJ sued Google in October 2020 for its online search activity.

Over the past year, the department’s team drafted an antitrust complaint that focused on Google’s dominance of the technology used to buy and sell the online ads that fund many websites. The complaint is similar to one that attorneys general in Texas and other states filed last year, although the Justice Department’s version has some differences.

Separately, antitrust prosecutors examined Apple and its tight control over the iPhone and iPad app ecosystem. Lawyers for the Department of Justice virtually attended the May trial between Apple and the maker of Fortnite Epic Games to glean any additional witnesses or evidence they might wish for their investigation. They also reviewed a September ruling by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, which found Apple did not violate federal antitrust law but said its limits on developer communications with customers violated the law. of the State of California.

Who will decide and when: The main decisions of the DOJ could make their final decision to sue Google or Apple in the spring of 2022, the two people told POLITICO.

Who will make this call also remains unanswered. Justice Department ethics officials have yet to determine whether Deputy Antitrust Attorney General Jonathan Kanter should step down from the cases due to his previous work for critics of both companies, said. they stated.

Either way, it would be expensive. Texas alone will need $ 43 million to continue its multi-state antitrust action against Google, state attorney general Ken Paxton told lawmakers.

Speaking of money: The Justice Department’s Fiscal Year 2022 Congressional Funding Bill proposed to grant antitrust prosecutors an additional $ 16 million.

This money would help alleviate some of the Justice Department’s budget crisis. But it could also be engulfed in cases already underway, including the pursuit of Google search and lawsuits to block a major sugar merger and a proposed union between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.

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