Zuckerberg and Google CEO approved deal to carve up ad market, states allege in court

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg was a signer to the pact, which she described as “a big deal strategically,” an updated lawsuit against Google says.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai personally approved a secret deal that gave the social network a leg up in the search giant’s online advertising auctions, attorneys for Texas and other states alleged in newly unsealed court filings.

The 2018 deal gave Facebook possibly unlawful advantages when the social network used Google’s advertising exchange, according to allegations by Texas, 14 other states and Puerto Rico in the latest version of their federal antitrust suit against Google.

The two companies denied Friday that the arrangement was illegal. Google also described the lawsuit as baseless and "full of inaccuracies."

The states originally filed the suit against Google in December 2020 and updated that with a heavily redacted version of their most recent complaint in November. They refiled a version with far fewer deletions on Friday after a judge in New York ruled that the additional details should be made public.

'A big deal': Among other new details, the new filing alleges that Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, helped negotiate the agreement and urged Zuckerberg’s approval, calling it “a big deal strategically.” The complaint says the team that negotiated the deal sent Zuckerberg an email telling him, “We’re nearly ready to sign and need your approval to move forward.”

"Facebook CEO [REDACTED] wanted to meet with COO [REDACTED] and his other executives before making a decision," says the complaint, with Zuckerberg's and Sandberg's names — but not their titles — still blacked out.

Sandberg and a Google senior vice president ultimately signed the September 2018 agreement, the lawsuit says. "Google CEO Sundar Pichai...

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