Alphabet Inc., operator of the search engine Google, has agreed to improve its legal compliance process in a first-of-its-kind settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) after failing to produce data on the now-defunct crypto exchange BTC-e in 2016.

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Fast facts

  • As part of the resolution, Google agreed to “reform and upgrade its legal process compliance program to ensure timely and complete responses to legal process such as subpoenas and search warrants” as required by relevant legal authorities, the DOJ said in a press release Tuesday.
  • A third-party, independent compliance professional will also be retained to ensure Google meets its commitments. The company must also file reports every six months so the government can track the company’s progress.
  • BTC-e was shut down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2017 for alleged money laundering after handling an estimated US$9 billion between its founding in 2011 and that time.
  • Google pushed back on the DOJ’s 2016 search warrant for information on the firm, using a legal precedent that search warrants could only be executed for data held on U.S. soil, whereas due to Google’s global footprint it was unclear exactly which data it was required to supply.
  • While the U.S. Congress passed the CLOUD Act in 2018 which clarified that all data in such cases were legally required to be supplied, Google later reported that some of the data had already been deleted.
  • Google’s revenue for Q3 failed to meet expectations as it reported earnings of US$69 billion for the quarter on Tuesday, as the media giant struggled to compete with social media platform TikTok. The company’s shares fell 5% in after-hours trading.

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