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Tough Pill To Swallow? Google to Pay $500 Million in Drug Ad Sale Finding



Google is hoping that this one gets caught up in the news cycle real fast and flushed down the proverbial news john. It’s not so much that the US Department of Justice is making Google pay $500 million for allowing advertising for online Canadian pharmacies to sell drugs illegally in the US. As with most things and Google, money is not the issue. They have plenty of that.

What does happen is that when people start to peel away the onion layers on this one the whole thing starts to stink real bad, real fast. Why? Well, it seems hard to believe that Google would be able to get away with what they did by just paying some cash to make it go away.

Here’s how it played out according to the Wall Street Journal

Google Inc. reached a long-awaited $500 million legal settlement with the U.S. Justice Department to avoid prosecution on charges that it knowingly accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal ads from Canadian online pharmacies.

The ads resulted in the unlawful importation of prescription drugs, including controlled substances, into the U.S., potentially placing consumers at risk, the Justice Department said.

The criminal probe was one of the most serious faced by Google and had the potential to touch executives. If Google had bee prosecuted by the government by knowingly endangering U.S. consumers, it could have tainted the company’s famous credo of “Do No Evil”.

A criminal conviction can also disqualify a company from bidding on government contracts.

First, let’s help the WSJ understand that Google’s credo is not “Do No Evil” it’s “Don’t Be Evil”. Many (including this writer) have been guilty of making the same mistake which makes it appear as if Google is playing to a very high standard. When you look at the idea of “don’t be evil” vs “do no evil” it is much less stringent and has a fair amount of subjectivity built in so it can be maneuvered and massaged depending on the circumstances. In other words, it’s very relative.

It appears that Google knowingly took Adwords payments from these pharmacies for many years. How can that be said? Well, if the article has it right, Google provided support and advice to these online pharmacies to help them with their campaigns and web presence from 2003 to 2009. So for six years Google was unaware that what they were doing was against the law? That’s rich!

Google’s response to the matter was:

“We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago. However, it’s obvious with hindsight that we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place. Given the extensive coverage this settlement has already received, we won’t be commenting further.”

The Department of Justice’s release goes into some detail as to how this all came down including this wonderful anecdote.

The investigation of Google had its origins in a separate, multimillion dollar financial fraud investigation unrelated to Google, the main target of which fled to Mexico. While a fugitive, he began to advertise the unlawful sale of drugs through Google’s AdWords program. After being apprehended in Mexico and returned to the United States by the U.S. Secret Service, he began cooperating with law enforcement and provided information about his use of the AdWords program. During the ensuing investigation of Google, the government established a number of undercover websites for the purpose of advertising the unlawful sale of controlled and non-controlled substances through Google’s AdWords program.

Bitter pill? Maybe so but this kind of business activity isn’t anything that a company with any morals or ethics should be engaging in especially since it was quite obvious that this was on the wrong side of the law.

I wonder which Google employees were complicit in this? I would bet dollars to donuts that there were some sweet commissions paid to salespeople for those ads. Think they are getting hit for their activities?

Whatever the case, Google takes a huge black eye on this one and sets the table for some serious doubt as to just how upstanding they are as a corporate citizen as they are being more heavily scrutinized by federal regulators. All this for some profit? I’ve read somewhere where “Money is the root of all evil”. Actually, that too is an incorrect statement because the actual quote is that “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil”.

Seems to me that Google is having a serious affair with money so yes, logic follows that evil can’t be too far behind.

Your thoughts?

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