That old expression that the second time is a charm may apply in antitrust. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine fellow AGs dropped a 130-page lawsuit against Google on Wednesday that’s quite a bit more interesting than the Justice Department’s lawsuit filed in October.
As you may have guessed from the page count, this one is a Texas-sized doozy of blockbuster allegations that Google has illegally monopolized each and every part of the market for digital advertising: the ad servers that host the ads, the exchanges where online publishers sell space for ads, the networks where advertisers list ads, and the tools everyone uses to help them manage the complex system in real time.
Unfortunately and bizarrely, the Texas complaint is riddled with redactions, those blacked-out lines of text that are typically used to shield proprietary or confidential information from the public. Here, every single internal Google email, memo, code name, joking code name, and quotation is redacted. For example:
In a couple of places, the AG’s complaint even blacks out its own legal reasoning. And at least twice, something is redacted in one part of the complaint but then revealed in a later part.
So, for your education, for your edification, and for your general amusement on a snowy day here in Boston, here is the gist of the Texas AG’s antitrust case against Google based on many of the redacted texts:
- Google’s percentage share of the digital ad market
- Number of ads Google’s ad servers process per day
- The cut of every ad sale Google collects
- Something a Google exec “frankly conceded” about the design of Google’s ad exchange
- The true design goal of Google’s ad tool for small web sites
- Google’s commission rate on ads from small advertisers
- The percent of time customers using Google’s ad tools spend buying or selling ads from Google’s ad exchange
- Something Google said to the FTC in 2008 about its ad server
- Google’s estimate of the percent of online publishers using its ad server
- Google’s description of publishers’ difficulties in switching to rival ad servers
- Just how Google violated the privacy of WhatsApp users in “egregious ways”
- The name of the team within Google’s New York office that designed a program called RPO to make ad bidding less competitive
- The name of one of Google’s bid rigging programs
- A screenshot of said bid rigging program
- Something Google employees discussed at an October 13, 2016 meeting
- The code name of a program Google developed to compete with a publisher-developed technique called header bidding
- A Google slide deck about the pain caused by Facebook’s support of header bidding
- An October 5, 2016 internal presentation to senior Google execs about Facebook and header bidding
- Something Facebook VP Dan Rose told Mark Zuckerberg in an email about Google and header bidding
- Details of an agreement Facebook and Google struck in 2018 allegedly to undercut header bidding
- The Star Wars character Google used as an internal code name for the agreement
- A word that appears 20 times in that agreement
- The way Google’s mobile format, AMP, actually hurts publishers
- Google’s strategy in withholding YouTube ad inventory from competing ad tools
- Google’s name for a restricted access data set that combines information from its search ads, YouTube ads, and display ads
- Google’s name for its scheme to arbitrage ad pricing
- The name of Google’s future project to turn the entire web into a walled garden it controls
- A summary document of the walled garden plan
It’s more than likely that this lawsuit will be consolidated with the DoJ one (and any subsequent lawsuits to come), or all will be tried before a common judge. And maybe that judge will order a few of these redactions removed. A reporter can hope! Have a great day and, if you’re on the East Coast, enjoy the snow.
In this week’s episode of our Brainstorm Tech podcast, Michal Lev-Ram talks to Lise Buyer of Class V Group about non-traditional methods of going public: SPACs and the auction model. Both are gaining popularity; Buyer explains why. Then, Brian O’Keefe speaks with Threshold Ventures’ Emily Melton about how the rush to go public looks from the VC world, and what trends she’s seen that will carry over into 2021. Listen to the episode here.
Just play every hand, you can’t miss them all. A third lawsuit is brewing against Google, looking at how the company treated search results from rivals like Yelp in its rankings for consumers. Yesterday's joking about a private equity rollup aside, the suits are likely to be consolidated and heard by a single judge.
I wanna be a bitcoin billionaire so freaking bad. The price of Bitcoin was around $17,000 at the end of November but has since been on a rocket ride. It hit an all-time high of $23,770.85 this morning, according to CoinDesk. Think it's topped out? Guggenheim Investments chief investment officer Scott Minerd says it is going to $400,000. The Pressman family basket of crypto held by PayPal is up 31% in the past month. Thought you'd want to know.
The last dance. After getting the drop on the latest Air Jordans, online sneaker exchange StockX is raising money for itself. The startup run by former eBay exec Scott Cutler raked in $275 million from VC investors in a deal valuing the company at almost $3 billion. At the other end of the shopping spectrum, bargain retailer Wish may wish they had not gone public on Wednesday. The company's new shares lost 16% after they began trading, the second-worst debut of any major IPO over the past five years, Renaissance Capital says.
I see what you did there. The logjam of streaming holdouts seems to be easing. Google is adding the Apple TV+ service to its Chromecast and other Google TV device next year, ending one of the last major holdouts against Tim Cook's video aspirations. And Roku is adding AT&T's HBO Max, also closing the loop of major streaming platforms for AT&T CEO John Stankey's key strategic priority.
So much water running underneath the bridge. After settling the gender discrimination lawsuit from its former COO Francoise Brougher for more than $20 million, Pinterest is also planning additional reforms of its workplace culture. The company disclosed the results of a review that recommends creating a more transparent system for promotions, adequately investigating complaints, and championing diversity, equity, and inclusion, among other steps.
Predictions Incorporated. We need your business predictions about next year, anything from from the broad (where will be the strongest areas from M&A?) to the specific (who will Microsoft buy next? Who is the next WeWork?). Term Sheet author Lucinda Shen is compiling the results. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at this Twitter thread by end of day Thursday.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
There is plenty of talk of "reskilling" or "upskilling" the American workforce. John Seely Brown, who ran the famed Xerox PARC lab back in the day, served on the board of Amazon, and did many other impressive things, wants to take a step back to reconsider how we learn–and how we unlearn–as adults.
Unlearning is a cute phrase – it doesn’t really happen explicitly. It’s about being generous enough to not think that there is only one solution. Somebody comes in from a different discipline that approaches the problem differently – do I listen to how they are looking at the problem? Or, do I pull out a rote solution or framework? Am I willing to engage in probing the system together? You’re expanding your own aperture for how you think about solutions, expanding the sources and resources you use, and approaching problems in new ways that you never believed in, but suddenly you see them in action.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
America needs a National Guard for scientists By Dario Gil
What are your top business predictions for 2021? By Lucinda Shen
Coinbase adds Cisco vet to board ahead of rumored IPO By Jeff John Roberts
Germany prepares to put some financial securities on the blockchain By David Meyer
Bosses are expressing gratitude all wrong. 7 better ways to be thankful this holiday season By S. Mitra Kalita
How A.I. can make digital advertising less creepy By Bob Lord
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BEFORE YOU GO
Some people knit in their spare time, some paint, some tinker with old cars. But musician Martin Molin of the band Wintergatan is taking things to a whole other level with his hobby building...what? It's a massive metal music-making machine powered by marbles–tens of thousands of marbles. He's made more than 100 videos about the construction of the machine and the latest one is pretty mind-melting. And the music is catchy too.