Yelp wants Google's lawyers tossed from US antitrust case

The logo of Google is seen at the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

(Reuters) -Yelp and a coalition of news organizations have asked a U.S. judge to disqualify a prominent U.S. law firm from defending Google in the Justice Department's ad tech lawsuit, saying the firm has a conflict of interest because it previously was their advocate on matters related to the case.

Yelp and News/Media Alliance, which are not defendants in the litigation but are targets of Google's subpoenas, argue that law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison should be disqualified.

Google has subpoenaed service-recommendation site Yelp and the alliance for information to challenge claims it has abused its market dominance for web advertising.

"This case involves a major law firm switching sides against former clients" to represent an alleged monopolist, attorneys for Yelp and the media group told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema on Friday.

A spokesperson for Paul Weiss said the "firm's representation of Google is appropriate in all respects."

Yelp declined to comment beyond its court filing. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The bid to toss Paul Weiss is the latest flashpoint over ethics in the litigation, one of two U.S. cases accusing Google of antitrust violations. Google has denied any wrongdoing.

Yelp said it hired Paul Weiss in 2016 for counsel on antitrust issues. The Justice Department's antitrust head, Jonathan Kanter, was on the Paul Weiss team representing Yelp.

Google wants Yelp to divulge information about its advertising technology business and other topics, the attorneys for Yelp and New/Media Alliance, Charles Molster III and Brandon Kressin, said.

Google is also seeking information about Yelp's engagement letters, invoices and bills related to its Paul Weiss ties.

This month, Brinkema refused a request from Google to block Kanter from leading the case. Google argued Kanter should be barred based on his work in private practice for Yelp and other Google critics.

New York-based Paul Weiss, which has about 1,000 lawyers globally, is also representing in various antitrust lawsuits.

The trial in the ad tech case is expected to begin next year.

The case is United States et al v. Google LLC, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, No. 1:23-cv-00108-LMB-JFA.

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; editing by Leigh Jones and Rami Ayyub)

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