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Regulators unlikely to use House report in lawsuit against Google – experts

While multiple antitrust enforcement agencies have active investigations into market-leading online platforms, policy experts do not expect a recently released House antitrust report to be used as evidence in court against the companies.

In a detailed report from a Judiciary Committee panel, lawmakers accused major online platforms — such as Facebook Inc., Apple Inc., Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC — of having monopoly power. The timing of the report coincides with several ongoing antitrust investigations at the federal level.

Specifically, the U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly very close to filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google, with a particular emphasis on the Alphabet unit's advertising and search divisions. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also has an open antitrust probe of Facebook. Both investigations began in 2019.

Sally Hubbard, director of enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute, a research and advocacy organization focused on antitrust, said in an interview that she thinks it is unlikely regulators will use the House report in court as evidence against the companies. She noted the agencies' investigations are relatively far along.

"The investigations have been going on for quite a while, so they already know a lot of what was in the report, I would guess," she said. "They should already have their legal theories crafted at this point," she added.

Instead, she said she thinks the report is more helpful for the cases in terms of how it "helps build that political will and the political momentum for enforcement of the laws that we do already have."

John Yun, who previously was acting deputy assistant director in the economics bureau in the antitrust division at the FTC, also does not think antitrust enforcers are likely to cite the report in court complaints to bolster their arguments.

"These complaints are very heavily fact specific," he said. "When you appeal to third party external sources ... I think it's usually viewed as a sign of weakness," he said.