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Google offers concessions to fend off U.S. antitrust lawsuit
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Alphabet Inc.'s Google has offered concessions in an attempt to head off a possible U.S. antitrust lawsuit aimed at its massive ad-tech business, according to people familiar with the matter, a sign that legal and regulatory pressures on the tech giant are coming to a head.
As part of one offer, Google has proposed splitting parts of its business that auctions and places ads on websites and apps into a separate company under the Alphabet umbrella, some of the people said. That entity could potentially be valued at tens of billions of dollars, depending on what assets it contained.
It couldn't be determined whether any offer short of asset sales would satisfy the U.S. Department of Justice, where antitrust officials have signaled a preference for deep structural changes to Google's ad-tech business, rather than promises to change business practices, the people said.
The Justice Department has been conducting a long-running investigation into allegations that Google abuses its role as both a broker and auctioneer of digital advertisements to steer itself business at the expense of rivals. The department is preparing a lawsuit alleging Google's ad-tech practices are anticompetitive, an action that could be filed as soon as this summer, the people said.
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"We have been engaging constructively with regulators to address their concerns," a Google spokesman said in a statement. "As we've said before, we have no plans to sell or exit this business." He added: "Rigorous competition in ad technology has made online ads more relevant, reduced fees, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers."
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
In the European Union, where Google faces another ad-tech investigation, Google has made an offer to settle a different allegation of anticompetitive conduct related to YouTube, some of the people familiar with the matter said.