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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on filing antitrust lawsuit against Google

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss filing an antitrust lawsuit against tech giant Google.

Video Transcript

- 30 attorneys general filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google this week. It's a third major antitrust complaint against the tech giant since just October. Minnesota is one of the states that joined the lawsuit we. Want to bring in Alexis Keenan, who is joined by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Alexis, take it away.

ALEXIS KEENAN: Hi Seana, thanks and welcome Keith Ellison. Minnesota's attorney general, who has signed on to that lawsuit that Seana just mentioned, with 38 attorneys general total filing suit yesterday against Google in the third civil antitrust lawsuit against the company in the last two months. Welcome, Keith.

KEITH ELLISON: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

ALEXIS KEENAN: Now Attorney General, I want to talk to you about your suit in particular. You have chosen for the state of Minnesota to sign on to this third case, but you didn't sign on to the other two prior cases that have been filed against Google. Now why is that exactly?

KEITH ELLISON: Well, we are aware of their case, but we are-- we believe our case goes further. We think that Google should be held accountable for its anti-competitive behavior. So we think that all of the actions are warranted and fair to hold Google accountable. But our particular complaint goes further. So that's why.

ALEXIS KEENAN: What exactly is the difference between yours and those other two cases?

KEITH ELLISON: Well you know, Google owns a product called sa360, and it helps a large advertisers manage their online ad campaigns across all search engines, not just Google. It gives advertisers real time information about how their ads are performing, and can automatically bid on ad space. Google said that this product would be neutral, and would steer-- would not steer advertisers toward certain places.

But the truth is that it does. And instead, it has sa360 steer advertisers toward Google platforms. And it's not-- you know, and it's deliberately made so that sa360 doesn't work as well with other search engines. We believe that's anti-competitive, and it's unfair, and it's something that we think that they have to answer for.

ALEXIS KEENAN: Now yesterday, Google responded to your lawsuit along with those other states, saying that it really seeks to redesign search in ways that would, what they say, would deprive Americans of helpful information and hurt businesses' ability to connect directly with customers. They also held a press call during which they gave reporters a briefing. And they also published some information online showing what they called redesigning search would harm American consumers and businesses, kind of doubling down on that.

They said 80% of search results don't, in fact, return any advertising. And that was part of your lawsuit, where some of the other search companies, like travel companies, for example, were complaining that those ads come up in the populated results. So does that change your position at all on saying that this conduct is anti-competitive, and that Google is saying at least 80% of its ads do not return these kinds of advertising results?

KEITH ELLISON: No, it doesn't. I've been a lawyer for 30 years, and I've never had a lawsuit where the people were suing with-- based on the facts, suddenly admit oh yeah, everything you said we're doing is right. No, they're going to say what they're going to say.

And they have an army of lawyers to say it. And we're-- but our allegations are accurate. They are well-researched, and we will prove them in court.

ALEXIS KEENAN: Now there are, of course, the critics who say that some of the attorneys generals' motivation for signing on to these suits is political. So what do you say to those critics who would make that argument?

KEITH ELLISON: What I would say is that highly concentrated markets are bad for everybody. There are certainly bad for workers. They don't let the labor market flow like it should. People can't get the wages that they deserve.

Highly competitive markets diminish innovation, cut down on new businesses, new products, new services. Highly competitive-- uncompetitive markets, predatory behavior like we're seeing here, is bad for the overall economy. Puts the monopolists in a position to demand any kind of price that they want.

And people who are subject to their monopolies have to always pay more and get less. So I would say that no, this is about economic freedom. This is about open, and fair, and competitive markets. This is about people being able to pursue the American dream, not political.

ALEXIS KEENAN: I see. Well, Minnesota's attorney general thank you so much, Keith Ellison, for joining us today. We look forward to seeing how these cases move forward in the near future. Seana?