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49 states now probing Google on antitrust grounds




Here’s one for the ever-popular “it sounds fake but isn’t” category: Google is just a single investigation short of completing what may be the most challenging iteration of the 50 States Bingo ever – the one in which you have to become a global monopoly before the geriatrics in the government realize how that internet thingy stuck around after all. But even after its home state of California yielded to pressure late last week and started its own probe into allegations of anti-competitive conduct, subsequent reports out of the Silicon Vallery indicated that it’s largely business as usual over at Mountain View.

That is, Google is for now largely focused on resolving antitrust concerns over its proposed Fitbit acquisition in the EU. Which remains an uncertainty, as underlined by the fact its $7.35 offer per share still overvalues Fitbit by some $100 million as of today’s start of trading at NYSE.

Still too early for investors to panic

Several dozen antitrust investigations or not, the stateside probes are mostly recent and years from any potential first-instance resolutions or settlements. Following the first trading hour at NASDAQ, Google was up by nearly 2% becuse markets are about as sane as claims that a company with a $1.55 trillion valuation is championing healthy competition and generally acting as a paragon of good-faith capitalism.

The daunting challenge of reigning in Google’s vast and multidimensionally connected empire is something few can speak of with significant authority; the most notable exception being Margrethe Vestager. Her decades’ of service across numerous Danish ministries and European institutions culminated with still-ongoing stint as the EC’s European Commissioner for Competition, starting in 2014. What followed were meticulous probes into all aspects of the biggest U.S. tech players and their European operations.

Half a decade later, Vestager’s office has the equivalent of some $30 billion worth of new fines to show for it. The final challenge in this rather energetic episode in antitrust history will be enforcing the fines themselves. At the same time, the same body is also probing the aforementioned Fitbit proposal, having reportedly negotiated an agreement that Google won’t use Fitbit’s wearable data to deliver even more precisely targeted ads to European consumers.