The Washington Post reported Tuesday that "more than half of the nation's Attorney General" has signed on and is preparing an antitrust investigation into digital titan Google, with the paper writing the inquiry, is scheduled to be announced next week, marking a major escalation in US regulators' efforts to investigate Silicon Valley's largest companies. "
Details of the investigation remain unclear, but the Post reported that the effort "expected" to be bipartisan and may involve over 30 prosecutors in general. State investigation is currently separate from another antitrust review currently underway by the Department of Justice, and it comes as both Democrats on the campaign trail and the Trump administration have stepped up pressure on tech giants (albeit for entirely different reasons). The Post wrote:
A smaller group of these state officials, representing the broader coalition, is expected to unveil the investigation at a news conference Monday in Washington, according to three people familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss law enforcement continuing in the mail, warning that plans could change.
It is unclear whether some or all of the attorneys are also planning to open or announce further probes to other technology giants, including Amazon and Facebook, which have faced similar US antitrust controls. State efforts are expected to be bipartisan and may include more than 30 attorneys general, one of the people said.
While it is "unclear" whether any DOJ officials will join the attorneys during the expected announcement next week, the Post wrote, the agency's antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said in August that the DOJ coordinated with state inquiries into possible breaches of the tech antitrust law -firmaer. The feds are currently conducting several such antitrust investigations, including the Federal Trade Commission probes on Facebook (separate from the weak $ 5 billion fine imposed on the company earlier this year) and Amazon and an Apple DOJ probe.
As Post noted, states have more limited powers at their disposal than feds, which can break down entire firms on the basis of competition law. However, states may join the feds in court, as they did during antitrust investigations against Microsoft in the 1990s, in addition to embarrassing Google in years of legal battles. Former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler told the paper, "If more states – and I mean not only Democratic lawyers, but also Republican lawyers – look at potential violations of antitrust law, one of the biggest effects could be pushing the federal government to do a deeper dive. "