In what a federal attorney calls 'one of the largest settlements in U. S. history', Google has agreed to forfeit $500 million to the United States government for allowing Canadian pharmacies to advertise drugs to U. S. consumers.
The settlement on Wednesday resulted from a long-term federal probe into illegal pharmaceutical advertising and importing. In agreeing to pay the U. S. government, Google will avoid criminal prosecution, and also likely hopes to dodge further embarrassment for the company.
Advertisements for hundreds of Canadian pharmacies were a regular fixture of Google's ad system from 2003 to 2009. The $500 million settlement was derived from the revenue that Google made from selling ads as well as from the company's share of the resulting illegal drug sales.
Canadian regulations on imports into the U. S. can potentially allow counterfeit, tainted, or otherwise risky drugs originating from other countries.
“It sends a clear message to both Google and to others that contribute to America’s pill problem that they will be held to account for endangering the health and safety of the residents of this district and to persons all across the United States,” said Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha.
Despite repeated Congressional testimony to the contrary, U. S. officials asserted that Google was aware that its practices permitted illegal importation of drugs and the sale of drugs without a valid prescription. Additionally, internal emails submitted as evidence showed that Google reps may have actively attempted to help the advertisers circumvent the company's own policies and knowingly violate laws.
A statement by Google expressed remorse while also reaffirming steps the company had taken to limit the problem.
“We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago,” Google's statement read. “However, it’s obvious with hindsight that we shouldn’t have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.”
James Lee Phillips is a Senior Writer & Research Analyst for IBG.com. With offices in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York, & London, IBG is quickly becoming the leading expert in Internet Marketing, Local Search, SEO, Website Development and Reputation Management. More information can be found at www.ibg.com. MorganDrexen provides legal support services to attorneys representing consumers who are facing bankruptcy. This support service provides high success rates as an alternative to debt settlement.