The scandal Google’s fancy lawyers could have prevented

Do you remember last week’s article on Google and Facebook’s secret Ad deal? If you don’t, let me summarize it for you:

Apparently, Facebook had a brilliant idea that, if well-executed, could have made them the #1 Display Ad giant, taking Google Ads out of their podium, but all of a sudden they backed down. However, due to a court investigation, Google was being investigated for, some sensitive documents were disclosed making public an Ad deal between Facebook and Google, as well as many other Ad companies. Said deal gave Facebook a star treatment no other member of the deal had, and that even surpassed what we thought was Google’s own limits.  This situation obviously ended up leading to a huge scandal among Google Ads deal’s partners that didn’t receive the same generous terms that Facebook did, and didn’t even know that they even existed until said documents were released. 

As you may know by now, I’m definitely not a lawyer but I do know a thing or two about the trial’s discovery procedures. Basically, companies are allowed to have confidential information, but if they are being investigated for any reason, the court can ask them to disclose documents revolving around topics that may affect their cases. However, if the company believes some part of the document is not relevant and shouldn’t be disclosed, they can “cross it out”. Sounds pretty simple, huh? Well, if Google paid me $1500 the hour, I definitely could have advised them to do so, but their lawyers did not. 

As mentioned in this article, Google’s lawyer, Paul Yetter, was required to file a response to the complaint of a group of state attorney generals, but forgot to redact crucial, and very sensitive, information about the whole Texas ad case. So Dr. Yetter disclosed details about Google’s Project Bernanke that was basically a scheme to let themselves get huge financial gains by getting better places in their Ad auctions AND also giving Facebook Ads a preferred position in said auctions. Even when this is already really dark, the worst part is that this whole project was kept a secret from the rest of the publishers, who expected an even game for the Ad Placements

Leading myself by common sense as I always like to do, I believe if there’s anyone in this world I wouldn’t want to get in legal trouble with is Google. They know everything and they have more than the money required to leave me in tears, so what happened? I  simply can’t let myself believe this was a fair honest mistake that could have happened to anyone. You are Google’s lawyer for God’s sake! You get paid enough to end hunger in a small under-developed country! You can’t let yourself let things slip through your fingers. And also, I’m sure many people must have revised this before it was disclosed, is it possible that absolutely no one realized what was about to happen? Well, apparently it is. 

So, it appears that the bottom line here is quite simple: Not even the best lawyers in the world can save you from anything, and not even them can get you to make your way around the law. I’m not interested in developing documentation, and especially documentation that reveals cheating and fraud, can always remain “confidential” or get redacted, but it seems that no matter how big companies try to do so, their little white lies (or like Facebook’s big rate inflating lies) always end up being leaked at the end… which makes me think about what else could they be hiding, but obviously this is not today’s topic. 

In my personal opinion, this looks much more like an intentional strategy than an honest mistake, because if it really was, shouldn’t Google have fired him, to say the little? It seems very weird to me that Mr. Yetter just created a huge scandal that could’ve been prevented by double-checking what he was disclosing, and that no one seemed to be too bothered about it. I’m a firm believer that everyone has the right to have their bad days every once in a while, but I don’t think Google would be so compassionate when it’s their sensitive information that we are talking about. 

So, to conclude, mistake or not, the reality is pretty simple: Google could have avoided this huge scandal with their partners if they had just redacted said information from their disclosed documentation, and how shady is it that no one would have learned about this scheme and way unfair treatment if that hadn’t happened? Yes, very shady. In the future, Google may want to review the responses that they fill, or maybe they could just try and make deals that are actually fair to all of the parties involved.

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