Google Forfeiture: Government Splits $500 Million

pillsSelect Rhode Island law enforcement agencies are about to beef up their training, equipment and investigative budgets. Five agencies that participated in the investigation of Google for distributing paid search ads for Canadian pharmacies that illegally shipping drugs into the U.S. will split $230 million of the $500 million Google forfeited to avoid prosecution by the Department of Justice.

The $230 million is split according to how much time and resources each agency put into the investigation. East and North Providence police will each receive $60 million, as will the attorney general’s office. Rhode Island state police is getting $45 million and the National Guard $5 million.

An additional $100 million will be split between the U.S. Postal Service, IRS, Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Each of the four federal agencies contributed to the investigation. The remaining $170 million is to be deposited into the DOJ’s Assets Forfeiture Fund.

Local and state agencies will have to submit a spending plan before gaining access to the funds. Under the program allowing the distribution of forfeited funds among law enforcement agencies who participate in federal investigations, they will not be allowed to use the windfall to cover expenses already outlined in their budgets.

Google said in a statement to the Associated Press, “We take responsibility for our actions. With hindsight, we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.”

That statement doesn’t exactly jive with Google’s position on their part in responsible advertising yesterday, after losing an appeal in which an Australian court ruled Google had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct. A Google spokesperson said on that ruling, “We are disappointed by the Federal Court’s decision that Google should be responsible for the content of four particular ads on its platform.”

In that case, Australia’s consumer watchdog organization ACCC charged that Google had allowed paid advertisements that misled consumers by showing competitors in search results for businesses. Under Australian law, no monetary penalty was allowed, though Google did have to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees.

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