Google has reportedly begun firing government lobbyists in a shakeup following news that the government may investigate the company over antitrust issues.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Silicon Valley tech giant Google has fired approximately half a dozen of its largest lobbying firms as the company attempts to overhaul its global government affairs and policy operations ahead of a suspected Department of Justice investigation relating to antitrust allegations.
It was reported at the end of May that the DOJ is preparing to begin an antitrust investigation into Google that could see the tech giant come under a new wave of scrutiny from regulators. According to people familiar with the matter, the antitrust division of the Justice Department has been gathering information and preparing for the investigation for weeks.
The FTC and Justice Department have been discussing which group will oversee further antitrust investigations of Google, with the FTC agreeing to give the Justice Department full jurisdiction over Google. Now that an understanding has been reached between the two government bodies, the Justice Department is preparing to conduct an in-depth investigation into Google. It has yet to be revealed if the Justice Department has contacted Google in relation to the investigation.
In response to this Google has begun reshaping its government affairs operations and has changed up its roster of lobbying firms, restructured the Washington policy team and lost two senior officials who helped to build the firms influence operation in Washington, according to people familiar with the situation. Sources claim that this revamp is part of modernization efforts Google has made for the past 15 years but it seems convenient that such huge changes are being made as the company faces more intense government scrutiny.
The sudden shakeup is reportedly seen as a move by Google’s new head of policy and government relations Karan Bhatia. Bhatia formerly worked as a senior trade representative in the administration of President George W. Bush and was later a top executive at General Electric. Bhatia was hired last year as Google’s vice president of policy and government relations.
Google’s new structure will see regional leaders covering the U.S. and Canada, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and countries that may have emerging markets. Policy teams will also continue to lobby government on critical areas for the firm such as privacy and the handling of controversial content on digital platforms.