What did Larry Page know and when did he know it? Well, the US Department of Justice says that Google ceo Larry Page knew for years that online Canadian pharmacies were allowed to place ads that targeted US consumers and, ultimately, caused medicines to be imported illegally,The Wall Street Journal writes. Google, you may recall, last week agreed to forfeit $500 million ( read here).
"Larry Page knew what was going on," Peter Neronha, the Rhode Island US Attorney who led the investigation tells the paper. "We know it from the investigation. We simply know it from the documents we reviewed, witnesses that we interviewed, that Larry Page knew what was going on...Suffice it to say that this is not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own. This was a corporate decision to engage in this conduct."
In reaching this conclusion, the feds reviewed more than four million documents, including internal e-mails, showing Page, 38, was aware of the ad sales, although the paper writes the e-mails will not be released. The feds did not name Page or other execs last week when Google confessed to the improper activity and Neronha says there are no plans to prosecute them. Interestingly, Google has still not placed a press release on its web site with its mea culpa.
Shipping meds from pharmacies to US consumers from other countries usually violates federal law, including the Controlled Substances Act. And the issue has generated considerable attention from the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry, which wants to eradicate importation, citing safety concerns over manufacturing and shipping, as well as counterfeit meds.
The feds say Google knew it was potentially violating US law since at least 2003, but did not take sufficient steps to ban such ads until an undercover sting operation was employed against Google two years ago. Until then, Google execs testified repeatedly in Congress that they had rigorous controls to stop unlawful ads, including third-party services for screening sites, the paper writes.
But Neronha tells the Journal that was "window dressing" that allowed Google to continue ringing the register while making the right noise about taking action. Meanwhile, he adds that Google employees helped undercover Justice Department agents in the sting operation evade controls designed to stop companies from advertising illegally.