Texas Sues Google to Get at “Privileged” Documents
When the Texas attorney general’s office first opened its investigation into Google’s business practices, the search behemoth promised to cooperate. But two years later, it appears to have fallen short of that pledge.
This week, Texas AG Greg Abbott filed a civil suit against Google demanding the company hand over a bunch of documents it has allegedly been withholding from Abbott’s office. Evidently Google has, on a number of occasions, either redacted documentation or refused outright to turn documents over, claiming attorney-client privilege. But according to Abbott, many of the documents at issue aren’t protected because they either A) weren’t sent to an actual attorney, or B) didn’t request a legal review.
“On May 3, 2012 Google’s counsel wrote a letter to the Attorney General’s Office identifying eleven documents containing an allegedly privileged email and requesting that the Attorney General delete all copies of these documents. The email in question is from one Google Vice President to his superior. Though the email begins with a header noting that it purports to be “Attorney Client Priveleged [sic],” neither the author nor the recipient is an attorney and the content of the email makes no reference to legal advice.”
Abbot says Google has withheld about 14,500 documents citing attorney-client privilege, and while a number of them are certainly protected, there are others that are not. “Google has not met its burden of demonstrating that the privilege is applicable to many of the documents withheld,” the suit alleges.
Reached for comment, Google reiterated its pledge of cooperation. “We have shared hundreds of thousands of documents with the Texas attorney general, and we are happy to answer any questions that regulators have about our business,” a Google spokeswoman said in a statement.
The complaint in full: