Google execs urge employees to keep their heads down amid DOJ's antitrust lawsuit

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 11, 2018.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and the company’s top lawyer, Kent Walker, urged employees to keep their heads down amid the Department of Justice’s high-profile antitrust lawsuit, according to separate emails to employees Tuesday.

“While we can expect some tough criticism and even misleading claims about our work, it’s important not to get distracted by this process, including speculating on legal issues internally or externally,” Walker wrote in an internal email to workers, which Google confirmed to CNBC. The notes were previously reported by Business Insider.

“I’ve had Googlers ask me how they can help, and my answer is simple: Keep doing what you’re doing,” Pichai wrote in his note. “Scrutiny is nothing new for Google, and we look forward to presenting our case.”

The Justice Department filed its long-expected antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, alleging the company has unlawfully maintained a monopoly in search by cutting off rivals from key distribution channels. In what is the first antitrust lawsuit by the federal government in its home country, eleven Republican state attorneys general joined the DOJ as plaintiffs.

While it’s common company practice not to discuss pending litigation, this particular suit warranted a response from its highest executives, showing leaders are concerned about the potential distraction to workers. It also shows executives increasingly reminding its employees that the products they’re building are “helpful,” as public criticism surrounding its business practices grows louder.

In his note, Pichai listed various Google products from artificial intelligence to COVID-19 exposure notifications, reminding employees the company builds technologies that “will improve lives and be a net benefit to society in the long-term.”

“Our users choose us not because they have to; they choose us because we’re helpful,” Pichai wrote. “From the quality and relevance of our search information to wildfire mapping and crisis alerts, to our COVID-19 exposure notifications (now in more than 40 countries), to the new line of hardware we just launched: our technology is helping people in moments that matter.”

In his note, Walker reiterated his public statements, alleging the DOJ’s case is “deeply flawed” and that it “doesn’t square with the facts of the law.” 

“Our mission has never been more important, so let’s keep up the good work and stay focused,” Pichai said at the end of his note. “Thanks for all your support.”

Google declined to provide further comment on the communications to employees.

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