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States Step Up Google Scrutiny Over Antitrust Issues

David McLaughlin, Ben Brody and Naomi Nix

(Bloomberg) -- State officials investigating Alphabet Inc.’s Google met Monday to dive into competition issues surrounding the search giant as they press forward with an investigation into whether the company is violating antitrust laws, according to people familiar with the matter.

The officials met privately in Denver with outside experts with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of Google’s businesses and the dynamics of the markets it operates in, including digital advertising, said one of the people.

The gathering comes two months after all but two states opened an antitrust investigation into Google with an initial focus on its advertising practices, according to an investigative demand sent to the company. Publishers have long complained that Google’s dominance in the technology that delivers ads across the web harms competition.

The meeting was similar to one held last month in New York where state officials met with experts about Facebook Inc. The social media giant is under investigation by 45 states, Guam and the District of Columbia.

One of the aims of the Google meeting was to help state officials prepare for an investigation that will likely present challenging competition issues, said one of the people. The states were also planning to map out a strategy for dividing the workload of the investigation, said two of the people.

Among those advising the states is Cristina Caffarra, an economist at Charles River Associates. Google has complained about Caffarra’s work for the state because of her past work for Google adversaries News Corp., Microsoft Corp., and Russia’s Yandex NV.

The states are investigating Google in parallel to a Justice Department antitrust probe of the company. The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel is also conducting an inquiry into Google and other large tech companies.

(Updates from fifth paragraph with challenges of the antitrust investigation. A previous version of this story was corrected to clarify the number of states and attorneys general investigating.)

To contact the reporters on this story: David McLaughlin in Washington at dmclaughlin9@bloomberg.net;Ben Brody in Washington, D.C. at btenerellabr@bloomberg.net;Naomi Nix in Washington at nnix1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, John Harney

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