In response, Google has asked the judge to impose an order that prevents any consultants — including Cristina Caffarra and Eugene Burrus, who are mentioned in the complaint — from disclosing any sensitive information they obtain, or working for the company’s competitors during the matter and one year after it ends. Google alleges that it proposed similar terms directly to Texas, though it claims the attorney general’s office rejected it. The order would also apply in cases where other states wanted to access the trove of records Texas amassed, according to the filing.
“We’ve provided millions of pages of documents in response to regulatory inquiries, and we’re committed to cooperating,” said Julie Tarallo, a Google spokesman. “But this is an extraordinarily irregular arrangement and it’s only fair to have assurances that our confidential business information won’t be shared with competitors or vocal complainants.”
In response, Marc Rylander, a spokesman for Paxton, said Google abruptly ceased negotiations and took the matter to court, adding in a statement: “We are not willing to compromise our ability to discharge our obligation to conduct a thorough investigation of Google’s conduct. The protective order requested by Google would do just that.”
Google’s legal salvo comes almost two months after the attorneys general from 51 states, territories and the District of Columbia announced they would probe the company’s business practices for competition concerns. Paxton has said the inquiry focuses at first on online advertising, but signaled in an interview with The Washington Post this summer that all options are “on the table.”
To start, Texas fired off a battery of intricate questions about Google’s advertising business on behalf of other states, aiming to determine if the company wields its dominance in violation of federal law, resulting in higher prices or worse service for consumers.
As Google labors to respond to that civil-investigative demand, however, it has taken issue with the fact that two of the consultants Texas retained — Caffarra and Burrus — may have access to its secrets that, given their prior work, they could leverage later to help Google’s rivals.
Caffarra serves as a top competition expert at Charles River Associates, where she has represented clients including News Corp. The media conglomerate, where Rupert Murdoch is executive chairman, owns brands including the Wall Street Journal and has emerged as one of Google’s chief antagonists around the world.
Caffarra has been most active in raising antitrust issues against Google in the European Union, the company alleges in its complaint, where regulators have issued $9 billion in fines against Google over the past three years. She has also worked on behalf of other Google foes, including the Russian search engine Yandex, she’s indicated in public reports. Earlier this year, she told the Post she is not working for a corporate client that’s opposing Google presently. Still, Google took issue with her selection, especially given public reports and documents that indicate she is not being paid for her work.
“This arrangement, presumably giving her an incentive to offer opinions adverse to Google after reviewing its confidential business information, coupled with her long history of work for numerous Google competitors and complainants, as well as any work she may be concurrently doing for them, creates a significant risk that Google’s confidential business information could be inappropriately disclosed to and used by its adversaries,” Google alleges.
Caffarra declined to comment.
Google alleges that Burrus, meanwhile, “also raises serious confidentiality concerns,” pointing out he has been involved in multiple lawsuits and investigations related to Google’s business practices.
“Absent appropriate limitations, Mr. Burrus likely will attempt to use his experience on this investigation, including his access to confidential Google information, to market himself to prospective clients with interests adverse to Google,” the company contends.
Burrus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.