Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha had some tough words for Google Inc. co-founder Larry Page in a Wall Street Journal story Saturday.
After Google last week agreed to pay $500 million to settle a criminal investigation into ads for unlicensed online pharmacies it once carried, Neronha told the Journal in an interview that Page was aware of the allegedly illegal conduct.
“Larry Page knew what was going on,” Neronha, who led the Google pharmacy ads probe, told the Journal’s Tom Catan and Amir Efrati. “We know it from the investigation. We simply know it from the documents we reviewed, witnesses that we interviewed, that Larry Page knew what was going on.”
Google admitted wrongdoing in the high-profile settlement, although executives repeatedly testified before Congress that they had “rigorous” controls to weed out the illegal ads from Canadian pharmacies aimed at U.S. consumers, the Journal reported. Neronha told the Journal those efforts were “window dressing.”
The settlement didn’t name the 38-year-old Page. But Neronha made clear in the interview that he considered the Google co-founder, who last April reclaimed his original position as the company’s CEO after long-time leader Eric Schmidt stepped down, to be personally responsible. He added, however, that he didn’t plan to prosecute Page or any other executives.
The Journal noted that a sting operation by the Justice Department found that Google employees helped undercover agents get around controls intended to block the illegal advertisements. ”Suffice it to say that this is not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own,” Neronha told the Journal. “This was a corporate decision to engage in this conduct.”
So, move over Preet Bharara. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney isn’t the only federal prosecutor out there with strong words for corporate leaders.