Google pays Apple a 36% share of search advertising revenue generated through its Safari browser, one of the tech giant’s witnesses accidentally revealed in a bombshell moment during the Justice Department’s landmark antitrust trial on Monday.
The flub was made by Ken Murphy, a University of Chicago economist and the final witness expected to be called by Google’s defense team. Both Google and Apple had fought to keep the revenue share figure and other details regarding their search engine partnership hidden during the antitrust trial.
Google’s defense team appeared to be dismayed by Murphy’s admission. The company’s top trial lawyer, John Schmidtlein, is said to have “visibly cringed” when he said the number, Bloomberg reported.
Murphy’s revelation was “probably the biggest slip of the entire trial,” according to Big Tech on Trial, a newsletter that has been closely tracking the proceedings.
The Justice Department has focused on Google’s dealings with Apple as a key indication that it has allegedly maintained an illegal monopoly over the online search market. Earlier in the trial, it was revealed that Google paid a stunning $26.3 billion in 2021 alone to ensure that its search engine was the default product for Apple and other distributors.
Google had argued as recently as last week that the details of the agreement were sensitive company information – and that revealing the info “would unreasonably undermine Google’s competitive standing in relation to both competitors and other counterparties.”
Schmidtlein and other Google attorneys have pushed back on DOJ’s assertions regarding the default search engine deals. The company argues that its payments to Apple, AT&T and other firms are fair compensation.
Google had earlier faced intense criticism from media outlets and antitrust watchdogs over its efforts to keep key trial exhibits secret from the public.
Google declined to comment. Apple did not immediately respond.
The Justice Department is expected to call its first of two to three rebuttal witnesses on Wednesday. Judge Amit Mehta is not expected to make a final ruling on whether Google violated antitrust law until early next year.
If Mehta sides with the Justice Department, a second trial would be held to determine appropriate remedies.
Experts have predicted wide-ranging final outcomes – from the implementation of a “choice screen” allowing users to pick their preferred search engine to a breakup of the company’s empire.