Google, one of the most closely watched companies on the planet, somehow managed to surprise investors and the media when it disclosed in a May 10 regulatory filing that it was setting aside $500 million to cover potential settlement costs related to a Justice Department investigation.
The Wall Street Journal reported three days later that the settlement would resolve a criminal investigation into allegations Google made hundreds of millions of dollars accepting ads from illegal online pharmacies.
No one may have been more surprised than Victoria A. Espinel, the U.S. intellectual-property enforcement coordinator. Just six months earlier, Espinel, who's leading the Obama administration's efforts to thwart rogue pharmacies, commended Google's help in the battle at a White House meeting. And in June, Espinel's office released a plan (PDF) to address intellectual-property enforcement that praised Google, along with Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing, for voluntarily updating protocols to prevent the sale of ads to rogue pharmacies.
"The U.S. Government applauds these efforts by the private sector and will continue to work with these companies and other search engine operators, advertising brokers, and payment processors to explore methods to prohibit paid advertising for online illegal pharmaceutical vendors," the document, with a signed introduction by Espinel, reads.
A representative at the Office of Management and Budget, of which Espinel's office is a part, referred questions regarding Espinel's knowledge of the criminal investigation of Google to the Justice Department. Jessica Smith, a spokeswoman there, declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, citing agency policy. Google also said it wouldn't comment because it was a legal matter.… Read more