The Justice Department (DOJ) accused Google of training employees to intentionally “camouflage” business documents from discovery.

Context: The Justice Department is currently investigating Google for alleged antitrust violations.

Background: According to the DOJ, Google has routinely instructed employees to copy lawyers on emails and mark documents as privileged. The practice makes it more difficult for prosecutors to determine what can be withheld under attorney-client privilege.

What Happened: The Justice Department is asking U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta to sanction Google and compel the disclosure of more documents.


“Google has explicitly and repeatedly instructed its employees to shield important business communications from discovery by using false requests for legal advice,” DOJ attorneys wrote. 

What Google Says: The company has refused the DOJ’s claims, calling them “flatly wrong.”

“Just like other American companies, we educate our employees about legal privilege and when to seek legal advice,” they continued. “And we have produced over four million documents to the DOJ in this case alone — including many that employees had considered potentially privileged.”

What the Justice Dept. Says: The DOJ cited multiple alleged examples of the practice in its brief, including Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai copying Google’s chief legal officer Kent Walker on an email to YouTube head Susan Wojcicki about how to respond to a press request, with “Attorney Client Privileged” at the top. (per The Hill)

What Comes Next: Judge Mehta will hold a hearing on April 8 to determine whether Google improperly shielded documents from the reach of prosecutors.

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