DHAKA: The Texas attorney general is accusing Google of improperly withholding evidence to stymie an investigation into whether the company has been abusing its dominance of web search.
The allegations surfaced in a court filing earlier this week as part of Texas` probe into Google`s business practices, now in its second year.
Texas is one of at least six US states examining whether Google manipulates its search engine`s influential results to stifle competition and drive up online advertising prices.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Europe`s antitrust regulators are conducting their own investigations into the same issues, with an early July deadline for responses in Europe.
As regulators and other government authorities pursue their inquiries, Google is being asked to turn over reams of internal emails and other records that could illuminate the company`s strategy and provide insights into the mindset of its top executives.
However Google has refused to hand over more than 14,500 documents covered in formal demands issued by Texas attorney general Greg Abbott in July 2010 and May 2011.
Abbott filed a petition on Monday in a Texas state court seeking an order that would require the company to surrender more of the requested material.
News of the filing broke in The Wall Street Journal a few hours before Google`s annual shareholders` meeting on Thursday at its headquarters in Mountain View, California.
The uncertainty posed by Google`s legal battles with government regulators and authorities around the world is one of the reasons the company`s stock has been lagging the rest of the market since co-founder Larry Page became chief executive more than 14 months ago.
Page himself was not present at the annual meeting because he has lost his voice, executive chairman Eric Schmidt explained at the event.
The affliction means Page will also have to miss Google`s I/O event for developers next week, at which the company is expected to unveil its own branded tablet to compete with Apple`s iPad and Microsoft`s Surface, announced earlier this week.
The meeting saw shareholders vote in favour of a new stock structure which will split the stock but will not give voting rights to newly created shares – an outcome that had always been certain because Page, and his co-founder Sergey Brin, control the majority of the voting stock.
Google shares fell $12.30 (£7.87) on Thursday to close at $565.21. The stock has declined by 4% during Page`s reign, while both the technology-driven Nasdaq composite index and the Dow Jones industrial average have gained 2%.
This isn`t the first time a government agency has criticised Google for perceived stonewalling.
In April, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Google $25,000 after concluding the company deliberated impeded an investigation into a Google project that scooped up emails, passwords and other personal information transmitted over unsecured wireless networks in homes located around the world.
BDST: 1625 HRS, JUN 22, 2012
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