Google Inc. said this evening in Washington the company is concerned confidential business information could be widely released without notice in the government's antitrust enforcement action against AT&T.
Lawyers for Google filed a motion to intervene in the U.S. Justice Department action pending in Washington federal district court, saying the company wants greater protection of its documents under a protective order already set up in the case.
The attorneys for Google said this evening that the company provided Justice confidential documents during its probe of AT&T's planned $39 billion acquisition of rival T-Mobile. The company wants the ability to object in advance to any public disclosure of confidential information.
Google’s attorneys, including Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider partner Michael Keeley in Washington, said in a motion to intervene (.pdf) filed Tuesday evening that the company wants to protect information that includes product development and launch plans. (Name partner John Harkrider also represents Google in the action.)
The protective order entered in the antitrust case earlier this month fails, according to Google, to require the parties in the dispute always to provide advance notice to Google of potential disclosure of confidential information.
Google’s attorneys said they want advance notice from the lawyers in the case when certain documents may be put on the public record, mentioned in open court or given to experts.
Justice Department attorneys involved in the antitrust investigation issued a civil investigative demand to Google earlier this year. Google said it provided the government “a substantial volume of documents of a highly confidential and competitively sensitive nature” to Justice.
DOJ lawyers intend to produce Google’s documents to AT&T’s attorneys and the lawyers for T-Mobile, Keeley said in court papers.
The parties “in this action may want to use Google’s confidential documents to advance their arguments at a hearing or at trial and therefore could well have incentives to disclose rather than protect Google’s confidential information,” Google’s attorneys said.
Google’s attorneys said that without additional protection of confidential information, Google and other non-parties in the suit could find information—such as Google’s business plans related to Android—in the hands of competitors or in newspapers.
Google said it expects telecommunications industry officials will attend significant hearings in the AT&T case. “Disclosure of such plans to competitors could not only harm Google, but likely also competition in mobile markets,” Google’s attorneys said.
AT&T and the Justice Department have not responded to Google’s request to intervene in the dispute. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle has set a status conference in the case for next month.