Google has tapped former White House economics and security policy expert Caroline Atkinson as its new head of global public policy, the company confirmed Tuesday.
The hiring comes as the search giant tries to wield increased influence with U.S. and overseas regulators involving issues like privacy, data sharing, and antitrust. Having a Washington insider in charge could help with shaping policy and warding off investigations.
“Caroline’s an internationally respected diplomat and adviser, and we’re delighted to have such a thoughtful leader heading our global policy team,” said Google’s General Counsel Ken Walker said in a statement.
Atkinson has deep experience in forming economic policy both in the White House and outside of the U.S. Prior to her role as the Obama administration’s deputy national security advisor for international economics, Atkinson served as a special assistant on international economic affairs to the president.
Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Atkinson was a senior executive in the International Monetary Fund and was the senior deputy assistant secretary for international monetary and financial policy at U.S. Treasury. She was also the head of regulatory policy at the Bank of England.
Atkinson began her career as a journalist for the Washington Post, the Economist, and the Times of London.
“Caroline Atkinson has extraordinary experience and insight regarding every aspect of international economic policy. At a time when momentous decisions regarding IT lie ahead it is great she will be in a position to be highly influential,” former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said about Google’s hire in a statement from Google.
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Atkinson may bring a vast amount of experience and knowledge in economic policy but she will have her hands full when she begins her role in March. Google is currently the target of an antitrust investigation in Europe. The European Commission alleges that Google used its search algorithm to promote its other businesses such as Google Shopping at the expense of competitors. The case is Europe’s biggest antitrust action against a U.S. technology company in the past decade, and Google could face a fine in the billions of dollars.
But Atkinson has a reputation in political circles as a skilled negotiator. During the Eurozone crisis, Atkinson was in the room with President Obama, former Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner, and others on how the U.S could help resolve the problem. She was also the lead negotiator with European countries on their responses to the crisis. While at the IMF and U.S. Treasury, she negotiated with many countries in financial turmoil, from Latin America to Asia.
Atkinson, who replaces former Google communications and policy chief Rachel Whetstone, isn’t the first political insider to join a U.S. technology giant. As multinational technology companies continue to grow their businesses, technology giants are bringing seasoned policy experts and insiders to help lobby with U.S. and international regulators.
In 2015, Amazon hired former White House press secretary Jay Carney to lead corporate affairs. Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe briefly joined Uber in 2015, and continues to serve as a senior advisor to the company. Former Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson heads social policy for Apple . Google brought on former Rep. Susan Molinari to lead lobbying efforts. Molinari will continue to oversee U.S. policy efforts, reporting into Atkinson.