US Justice Department says Google misuses attorney-client privilege to hide documents


The US Department of Justice has accused Google of coaching its staff on how to defend business communications from discovery in circumstances of authorized disputes “by using false requests for legal advice.” As Axios reports, the DOJ has instructed the decide overseeing its antitrust case towards the tech large that Google instructs staff to add in-house attorneys to written communication, apply attorney-client privilege labels to them and make a request for authorized recommendation even when it isn’t wanted. The division is now asking the decide to sanction the company “for its extensive and intentional efforts to misuse the attorney-client privilege to hide business documents relevant” to the case.

In the brief (PDF) its attorneys wrote for the decide, the DOJ mentioned Google refers to the apply as “Communicate with Care” and that it first began no later than 2015. New staff are reportedly directed to observe the apply with out dialogue on whether or not it ought to solely be used when authorized recommendation is actually wanted. In addition, Google allegedly supplied the identical coaching to groups dealing with search-distribution for the division’s (and different authorities’) antitrust circumstances. 

Google particularly instructed these groups to observe the apply for any written communication containing revenue-sharing agreements and cell application distribution agreements, primarily based on the presentation slides the DOJ included in its temporary. Those agreements are central to the case. If you will recall, the DOJ accused Google of getting an unfair monopoly over search and search-related promoting in its 2020 antitrust lawsuit. It additionally questioned its phrases for Android gadget producers that power them to pre-load Google apps and set Google because the default search engine. 

According to the DOJ, statements corresponding to “adding legal” or “adding [attorney] for legal advice” seem in hundreds of Google documents. These emails apparently lacked any particular request for recommendation and attorneys not often reply to them. In the temporary, the division mentioned the apply “pervades the entire company” and is getting used even by Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

The DOJ is now asking the court docket to maintain Google’s conduct as sanctionable and to order it to instantly produce “all withheld or redacted emails where no attorney responded to the purported request for legal advice.”

Google spokesperson Julie Tarallo McAlister defended the company in an announcement despatched to Axios, nevertheless, calling the allegations “flatly wrong.” McAlister mentioned:

“Our teams have conscientiously worked for years to respond to inquiries and litigation, and suggestions to the contrary are flatly wrong. Just like other American companies, we educate our employees about legal privilege and when to seek legal advice. And we have produced over four million documents to the DOJ in this case alone — including many that employees had considered potentially privileged.”

All merchandise really helpful by Engadget are chosen by our editorial workforce, unbiased of our dad or mum company. Some of our tales embody affiliate hyperlinks. If you purchase one thing by considered one of these hyperlinks, we could earn an affiliate fee.