This past week, the publication TechDirt published some pretty startling revelations about how the Motion Picture Association of America was hand-in-glove coordinating with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office with regards an ongoing effort that was codenamed “Project Goliath” set to tackle Google.
As I was preparing this piece, I had to say that I was stunned to see the Clarion Ledger even run a small blurb article mentioning this. But it’s just candidly the tip of the iceberg. This story has been percolating for a while, but has yet to see any sort of meaningful press attention in Mississippi.
We, of course, have been following this story the whole way. The first salvo was fired by Hood in mid-2013 and it has been a pretty steady stream of hostilities between Hood’s office and Google ever since. If you want more information on the story, go to our search function and type in “Google” and all of the stories will come up.
Back in December 2014, there came the revelation that MPAA was essentially helping the Attorney General’s office craft CIDs (Civil Investigative Demands) against Google. Well, Google didn’t think that was too sporting, so they sued Hood in Federal Court and seem to be winning that battle. Judge Henry Wingate ruled that Hood’s office was acting “in bad faith” and there is a rash of discovery, most of which has not been in the public eye to this point.
Fast forward a bit – there is another related civil lawsuit in the Southern District of New York (1:15-mc-00150-P1). In this case, Google is suing Fox, NBC and Viacom to subpoena communications with the entertainment industry and Hood’s office that “are likely to show that the Attorney General’s investigation was intended not to uncover supposed violations of Mississippi law, but instead to coerce Google into silencing speech that Viacom, Fox, and NBC do not like . . .” Inside the context of that request, Google is pushing out some of the discovery that’s already come their way from the Mississippi case . . . and it’s fascinating stuff.
It starts with Hood’s comments at the National Association of Attorneys General in June 2013, right when hostilities were started against Google (aka Goliath).
As we move into the fall, we see the coziness of Tom Perrelli with Hood in emails in October. Hood then starts trading emails with Vans Stevenson, who is in house counsel at MPAA talking about how Perrelli drafted the “great letter that I will send Google” for agenda of what would in essence be a shakedown meeting.
There were lots of communications between industry execs (Sony, Disney, Fox, Warner Brothers, MPAA and RIAA), staffers from Hood’s office and, of course, Mike Moore.
But the big bomb came out this past week. In March of this year, they talked openly about a coordinated attack that essentially was going to result in (1) planted Wall Street Journal editorials (2) Today Show features and (3) generated SEC/regulatory actions all geared toward putting downward pressure on Google’s stock.
At the end, they go on to say that if that doesn’t work, “. . . if necessary, we propose that the AGs will issue CIDs to Google. We have researched these issues in the past and can draw from that experience.”
Those are the facts, now here’s the opinion. If you own a Google stock or a mutual fund (pretty much any mutual fund as Google is massively held), it appears to me that you have state employees in the Attorney General’s office and even the Attorney General himself being at best knowing pawns and at worst complicit actors in a litigation strategy (with their industry competitors) to manipulate the price of a stock against you. I’m not sure I’m cool with paying people in the public sector to drive down the stock of a company that I might directly or indirectly as a knowing part of their litigation strategy that benefits lobbyists, corporations and trial lawyers that don’t even live here. Maybe there are some enterprising trial lawyers that can cook up that cause of action.
Either way, this Google litigation is going to go on and there will be more revelations and more unbelievable emails that give an inside glimpse into how companies are shaken down with the help of cozy lobbyist relationships with AGs. Ours just seems to be really popular among lobbyists for doing it. I’m afraid this story, like other Mississippi shakedowns before it, will get worse. Hopefully, the print media in Mississippi will stop shaking in their Nikes and give this story the very real attention it deserves.