Google Moves to Dismiss Antitrust Claims as ‘Misguided’ in Digital Advertising MDL

A 52-page Southern District of New York filing by Google alleges attorneys general suing the company have overstepped the boundaries of antitrust law with their “proposed intervention into the free market.” The motion to dismiss seeks to knock out four federal antitrust claims brought by the state enforcers: monopolization or attempted monopolization of various markets, tying of Google’s ad server to its ad exchange, and entering into an unlawful agreement with Facebook.

The case, led by Texas’s Ken Paxton, concerns Google’s alleged monopoly in the online display advertising market, a forum for buying and selling the placement of ads on websites and mobile apps. The state plaintiffs’ third amended complaint contends that Google strangles competition and charges supra-competitive prices to firms essentially forced to participate in its ad exchange for want of other real options.

In August, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation consolidated 18 suits brought by advertiser, publisher, and state attorney general plaintiffs and transferred the case to New York, which is home to many publishing firms.

In response to the amended complaint, Google claims that it has been a successful competitor in the digital advertising marketplace in the last ten years Its achievements, obtained through “relentless innovation, early and extensive investment in research and development, vigorous competition, and hard work,” withstand antitrust scrutiny, the company urges.

By contrast, the filing explains that the state plaintiffs “criticize Google for not designing its products to better suit its rivals’ needs and for making improvements to those products that leave its competitors too far behind.” The filing alleges that principles the plaintiffs advocate for, including “compulsory sharing and coerced cooperation” threaten the free market economy by undermining investment and innovation incentives, forcing the judiciary to act as “central economic planners,” and risking collusion between firms that ought to be left to compete.

In terms of legal sufficiency, the motion to dismiss argues that the states’ claims are untimely and fail to meet the federal pleading standard. The fourth iteration of their complaint merely “double[s] down on inapt labels, purple prose, and flawed analogies, increasing the length of their already sprawling complaint by 68 pages and 220 paragraphs,” the filing says.

Google is represented by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer US LLP, Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider LLP, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.