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Google requested a trove of documents from the Texas attorney general’s antitrust probe

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Google is calling on Texas’s attorney general to hand over a vast trove of internal documents and communications related to a multi-state antitrust probe of the tech giant, including any information supplied to regulators by Texas’s outside consultants and Google’s chief critics and rivals.

In a sweeping public records request earlier this month, Google asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for virtually all records that relate to the investigation. A copy of the request was obtained by CNN through a separate public records inquiry.

The extensive filing is a view into Google’s playbook — and reveals who the tech giant believes to be some of its biggest antagonists — as it begins to respond to an investigation by 50 attorneys general representing 48 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. (Texas is leading the investigation.)

Google’s Nov. 4 letter asks for communications between Paxton’s office and other attorneys general concerning the probe, as well as interactions with companies including AT&T — whose subsidiary, WarnerMedia, owns CNN — and Comcast, News Corp, Oracle and Yelp. It also requests records of communications with journalists and news organizations, the advertising technology company AppNexus and the Republican Attorneys General Association, among others.

The request covers a broad range of materials. In addition to communications and documents, it asks for “calendars, schedules, call logs, visitor logs, and other records of interactions” with those named in the request.

It even asks for internal details about a press conference held on the steps of the US Supreme Court in September to announce the antitrust investigation, and for insights surrounding Texas’s decision to join more than a dozen states suing to block T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint.

“Google’s legal team is notoriously pugnacious, but this is a new low,” said Luther Lowe, Yelp’s VP of public policy and government affairs who has spent years criticizing the search giant before policymakers. “Google is attempting to simultaneously push around state attorneys general while intimidating potential cooperating witnesses using a perverse weaponization of sunshine laws.”

It is unclear whether Paxton has yet released or withheld any information in response to Google’s public records request. Paxton’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said the company is committed to cooperating with the multi-state investigation and has provided millions of pages of documents to regulators. But, he added, “this investigation features an extraordinarily unusual arrangement with external parties. So we’re seeking transparency about the involvement of competitors or vocal complainants as part of our efforts to ensure that our confidential business information is not shared with them.”

Google’s request separately calls for information surrounding the hiring of a number of consultants Paxton has retained to help with the investigation. The list includes Roger Alford, a former Justice Department antitrust official, as well as Eugene Burrus, a former Microsoft lawyer. It asks for information on Cristina Caffarra, an economic consultant at Charles River Associates who has represented News Corp in the past.

The company also singled out Brian O’Kelley, CEO of AppNexus, and Susan Athey, an economist at Stanford University’s business school. Athey’s connection to the probe was not immediately clear, and a spokesman for Paxton didn’t respond to questions about her possible involvement. Athey is an expert in auction-based marketplaces who has long consulted for Microsoft.

Alford declined to comment for this story. Athey, Burrus, and Caffarra didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Google filed its public records request days after it asked a Texas judge to keep Paxton from releasing confidential information about the company to its consultants.

In the court petition, Google said it had exchanged numerous proposals with Paxton’s office to ensure that sensitive business information didn’t fall into the wrong hands. But, the company said, Texas’s approach “would allow disclosure of Google’s confidential information to third-party consultants who simultaneously are working for Google’s competitors or complainants in this investigation.”

In particular, Google’s filing said, Caffarra and Burrus’ hiring raised “serious confidentiality concerns.”

“Mr. Burrus, like Ms. Caffarra, has spent many years working for parties who compete with Google, have sued Google, or both,” it said in the petition.

Article Topic Follows: Biz/Tech

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