Top law organization in Google antitrust demo locked in ethics dispute

A subplot has surfaced in Google’s landmark antitrust demo with the feds – and one particular of the research giant’s white-shoe legislation companies is caught in the middle of it.

A federal choose will make a decision in the coming weeks no matter if 1 of Google’s major authorized advisors – New York-primarily based legislation company Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison – will get thrown off the circumstance for ethics violations, in accordance to lawful filings

At problem: Paul Weiss is defending Google from the Justice Department’s costs it has stifled competitors after symbolizing a number of of the lookup giant’s crucial accusers on the situation just a couple decades in the past – among the them Yelp, Spotify, and News Corp, the proprietor of The New York Submit.

Yelp and Spotify retained Paul Weiss right until 2020 and Information Corp retained the business until 2022. At the time, a vital counsel at the organization to the Google antagonists was none other than Jonathan Kanter – the prosecutor who is now major the DOJ’s case towards Google.

Kanter remaining “due to a sophisticated legal conflict,” the business explained at the time. Additional specially, according to reviews, Paul Weiss had just employed nicely-related legal professional Karen Dunn, whose Significant Tech consumers at the time included Apple and Amazon, according to reports. 

With Paul Weiss getting considering the fact that been employed by Google, Yelp has submitted a authorized motion to get the agency taken off from the situation, even with the truth Yelp is not concerned. In a Sept. 22 submitting, Yelp complained that it never granted a waiver to the regulation agency to change its allegiances.

The American Bar Association’s policies for qualified perform point out that legal professionals can not change sides except if provided “informed consent” in composing by the earlier client. 

Jonathan Kanter
Jonathan Kanter at the courthouse.

In its Sept. 22 submitting with the News Media Alliance – a group symbolizing additional than 2,000 news corporations – Yelp explained Paul Weiss appropriately need to be “disqualified when it earlier delivered counsel for an adverse get together in a substantially connected matter.” 

A spokesperson for Paul Weiss said, “Our firm’s illustration of Google is correct in all respects. The characterizations remaining raised are factually baseless, legally irrelevant and transparently tactical.”

Google logo
Google’s landmark antitrust demo with the feds began last thirty day period.
AFP through Getty Photos

Yelp and Information Corp declined to remark. Spotify did not respond to a request for remark. 

Some anti-tech critics like Matt Stoller, Director of Investigate at the American Financial Liberties Venture, say it’s probable the decide could throw Paul Weiss off the scenario. 

“Most legal elites have a tenuous grasp on the rule of law,” Stoller mentioned of the law firms’ seeming disregard for ABA pointers. “They really do not feel in the rule of regulation and they really do not think it applies to shoppers.”

Jeff Hauser, founder of nonprofit watchdog the Revolving Door Undertaking, notes that Paul Weiss’ shopper adjustments could “show disloyalty,” but in the stop set the company in a distinctive posture to offer “extra ammunition” for Google in its legal battle.

“You know the other side’s strengths and weaknesses and info you’re virtually not meant to know,” Hauser stated. “They have had privileged perception into shoppers battling against Google’s monopoly and now have that information and facts on behalf of Google.”

Without a doubt, Paul Weiss associate Dunn didn’t just carry a prolonged roster of customers when she joined the organization – she also brought deep political ties.

Not only is her husband Brian Netter at the DOJ, in which he heads the Federal Courses Branch, she is near with US Attorney Basic Merrick Garland and even organized him ahead of his affirmation hearings in 2021. 

“What’s distinctive is how close Karen Dunn is to so several individuals at the DOJ — they are having to pay for accessibility,” a resource who spoke on the situation of anonymity speculated about why Dunn was so crucial to the case.

Meanwhile, according to Hauser, DOJ antitrust chief Kanter “will have to have guidance inside of the DOJ making simply because his tactic to reining in businesses is anomalous inside of the DOJ.”

While Stoller said that antitrust hawkishness has improved at the DOJ under Biden, “prosecutions of corporate crimes are a great deal decreased right now than less than Trump.””

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