DOJ has recently unveiled a revealing exhibit, a key point of discussion during the Google search antitrust trial presided over by Judge Amit Mehta, who notably characterized its contents as “embarrassing.”
Contained within this significant document are detailed meeting notes attributed to Google’s Vice President for Finance, Michael Roszak. As reported by Bloomberg, Roszak pointed out a rather striking perspective on Google’s search advertising, referring to it as “one of the world’s greatest business models ever created.” He underscored the immense economic prowess of this aspect of Google’s operations, suggesting that its financial dynamics could be likened to, and potentially even surpassed, those of “illicit businesses” involved in the trading of “cigarettes or drugs.”
Controversial Testimony and Legal Proceedings
During the trial, Roszak stated to the court that he couldn’t recall whether he had ever given the presentation. He mentioned that the course required him to convey “things I don’t believe as part of the presentation.” Additionally, he asserted that the notes were “full of hyperbole and exaggeration” and did not accurately represent his true beliefs because there was no business purpose associated with it.
According to Bloomberg, Google objected multiple times to the document being presented in court, arguing that it was irrelevant to the DOJ’s case. Subsequently, when Mehta allowed the DOJ to present the document as evidence, Google sought to have Roszak’s testimony on the document sealed, a request that Mehta granted. However, Mehta later expressed that Google’s request had put him “in a pickle.”
“This doesn’t contain anything confidential,” Mehta reassured Google. “I understand it’s somewhat embarrassing for the witness.”
Mehta expressed concern that sealing Roszak’s testimony made it difficult for the public to grasp the document’s context. In the end, Mehta not only declined Google’s request to redact portions of the document but also expressed intent to unseal the section related to Roszak’s testimony, as reported by Bloomberg.
Aside from likening Google’s search advertising business to illicit drug markets, Roszak’s notes also alluded to the idea that Google’s search engine had an addictive quality, enabling the company to focus primarily on the supply side of advertisers, ad formats, and sales, rather than considering the demand side and fundamental economic laws. This particular aspect seemed to intrigue the DOJ the most.
Revelation of DOJ and Google’s Response: Roszak’s Notes Unveiled
According to Roszak’s notes, they believed that Google’s impact on the market was so profound that it could effectively “tear the economics textbook in half.”
Part of the DOJ’s argument contended that Google, due to its monopoly over search, lacked incentive to innovate products that would protect consumers from harmful practices, such as invasive data collection.
A Google spokesperson conveyed to Bloomberg that Roszak’s statements did not reflect the company’s stance and were created for a public speaking class, where hyperbolic and attention-grabbing statements were encouraged. The spokesperson clarified that Roszak testified he did not believe these statements to be true.
In court, Google lawyer Edward Bennett suggested that Roszak’s notes revealed a presentation plan akin to “cosplaying Gordon Gekko,” a character symbolizing corporate greed from the movie “Wall Street” (1987).
The debate over the extent to which Roszak’s notes could be shared with the public concluded with an agreement between the DOJ and Google regarding all trial exhibits. As per Mehta’s ruling, Google or third parties could object to the DOJ posting trial exhibits, including Roszak’s notes, online by 9 p.m. every trial day. If there were no objections, the DOJ could post the trial exhibits “as soon as it is reasonable to do so.”
Following this decision, the DOJ posted the trial exhibit, allowing the public access to Roszak’s notes, which were described as “embarrassing.” You can now review Roszak’s notes from the trial exhibit.