State AGs, Justice Department discuss Google antitrust probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - State attorneys general investigating Alphabet Inc's Google unit GOOGL.O met on Tuesday with U.S. Justice Department officials to coordinate efforts to probe the search and advertising giant, officials told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland, December 5, 2018. Picture taken with a fisheye lens. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

The attorneys general of Texas, Utah and Nebraska were among those in attendance. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said one goal of the gathering was to coordinate efforts, with the goal of wrapping up the probe by the end of the year.

“We’re working well together and trying to make sure that there aren’t redundancies,” told Reuters outside the Justice Department. “We’re hoping to go as quickly as we possible can but I don’t have a specific timetable.”

The department said in late July it was opening a broad antitrust investigation of the big digital firms - Google, Inc AMZN.O, Apple Inc AAPL.O and Facebook Inc FB.O. Attorney General Bill Barr has since said he would like the probe completed by the end of the year.

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized the companies and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have called for the break-up of Amazon and Facebook.

The Justice Department said in a statement that the state officials met with Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, Associate Deputy Attorney General Ryan Shores and officials from the department’s Antitrust Division.

The Justice Department said in a statement the meeting was “to continue strengthening their multilateral antitrust law enforcement cooperation concerning technology markets.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters, “It’s nice to have the cooperation of the Department of Justice.”

The Justice Department and nearly all state attorneys general have opened investigations into allegations that Google has broken antitrust law. The federal probe focuses on search bias, advertising and management of Google’s Android operating system.

Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department said the head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, has been recused from the Google portion of the agency’s review of big technology platforms due to potential conflicts of interest.

One or more of the companies are also being looked at by the Federal Trade Commission, a second group of state attorneys general and the House Judiciary Committee.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; writing by David Shepardson and Diane Bartz; Editing by Sandra Maler and Richard Chang