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Group suing Google claims CEO Sundar Pichai involved in deleting evidence

Google CEO Sundar Pichai| Hardik Chhabra/ The India Today Group via Getty Images

A group suing Google for alleged antitrust violations said Monday that it had uncovered “a company-wide culture of concealment coming from the very top,” and accused CEO Sundar Pichai of deleting evidence related to the case.

The four suits—filed by 37 state attorneys general, two tech firms and millions of individuals—say chat messages reveal Pichai and other high-level employees deleted communications that a judge had ordered be preserved. The case revolves around allegations that the tech behemoth uses the Google Play Store’s app-selling market position to charge commissions so large that they violate antitrust laws.

Multiple companies and government agencies suing Google on antitrust grounds have repeatedly claimed that the Mountain View-based tech giant sought to conceal its internal communications.

Judge James Donato of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered Google to give the court private Google chat messages, which showed employees discussing turning off the chat history functions so that the communications would not be recoverable if the company were later ordered by a judge to reveal them.

The chat logs also show that Pichai personally asked whether a chat group’s history could be turned off and then attempted to delete that message.

Google and Pichai did not respond to requests for comment by publication time. Previously, the company has denied deleting chat logs.

The groups suing Google described a “years-long, calculated policy of systematically destroying evidence, and would encourage Google to maintain, rather than eradicate, the corporate culture of litigation misconduct it has nurtured for many years.”

Last month, Reuters reported that lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice accused Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., of destroying internal communications and falsely telling the government that it had stopped auto-deleting company chats. The Justice Department asked a judge to impose sanctions on the company.

Google denied those allegations, asserting that it made “reasonable” efforts to preserve internal communications.

The company is currently embroiled in a series of lawsuits accusing it of anti-competitive behavior.

In 2020, the Justice Department filed suit against Google for allegedly monopolizing search and search advertising. In January, the Justice Department and eight state attorneys general, including California’s Rob Bonta, sued the tech giant for monopolizing digital advertising technology.

The latest brief relates to four suits against Google, including one antitrust action filed in 2019 that accuses Google of “using its dominance to unfairly restrict competition with Google Play Store, harming consumers by limiting choice and driving up app prices.”