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Zuckerberg and Google CEO approved deal to divide advertising market, court claims

States initially filed a complaint against Google in December 2020 and updated it with a heavily redacted version of their most recent complaint in November. They filed a new version with far fewer deletions on Friday after a New York judge ruled that additional details must be made public.

‘A big deal’: Among other new details, the new case alleges that Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, helped negotiate the deal and sought Zuckerberg’s approval, calling it a “strategically big deal.” The complaint says the team that negotiated the deal sent Zuckerberg an email saying, “We’re almost ready to sign and need your approval to move forward.”

Facebook CEO [REDACTED] wanted to meet the COO [REDACTED] and its other leaders before making a decision,” the complaint states, Zuckerberg and Sandberg’s names — but not their titles — still blacked out.

Sandberg and a senior vice president at Google ultimately signed the September 2018 deal, according to the lawsuit. “Google CEO Sundar Pichai also personally signed the terms of the agreement,” he adds.

Previous versions of the complaint had revealed the existence of the deal, dubbed Jedi Blue. But the latest details show that the pact between Google and Facebook, the No.1 and No.2 players in the online advertising market, has been negotiated and approved at the highest level of the two companies. Prior to joining Facebook, Sandberg was a senior Google executive in charge of online sales.

The suit: The state lawsuit accused Google of monopolizing the market for ad technology, the tools used to buy, sell and display the online ads that fund many websites. In November, they updated their complaint with additional details, and the prosecution judge ordered parts of their allegations to be unsealed this week.

Google spokesman Peter Schottenfels on Friday dismissed the lawsuit as an unfortunate legal move by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the multi-state lawsuit. The company said it would ask a judge next week to dismiss the case.

“Despite Attorney General Paxton’s three attempts to rewrite his complaint, it is still full of inaccuracies and lacking in legal basis,” Schottenfels said. “Our ad technologies help websites and apps fund their content and allow small businesses to reach customers around the world. Competition in online advertising is vigorous, which has lowered ad technology costs and expanded options for publishers and advertisers.”

Google also denied that Pichai was involved in approving the deal. “We sign hundreds of deals every year that don’t require CEO approval, and this was no different,” Schottenfels said.

Facebook, now known as Meta, echoed its earlier defense of the arrangement between the two companies.

“Meta’s non-exclusive bidding agreement with Google and similar agreements we have with other auction platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements,” the gatekeeper said on Friday. – Meta spokesman, Christopher Sgro, in a statement. “These business relationships allow Meta to deliver more value to advertisers while compensating publishers fairly, resulting in better results for everyone.”

Meta is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

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