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Google To Get Slapped With $500 Million Fine For… Drugs? (Sorta)

by Adriana Lee | July 1, 2011July 1, 2011 6:30 pm PDT

The Google news and rumors just keep on coming today, but this one’s a little different.

The search giant and Android creator is at the center of a major federal probe — which certainly isn’t a first for a major tech company. What’s different about this case, however, is that the agency leading the investigation isn’t the FCC or even the SEC; it’s the FDA. That’s right, the Food and Drug Administration, along with federal prosecutors in Rhode Island, allege that for three years, the company has been placing ads for online pharmacies knowing full well that these clients were running illegal operations.

Such websites regularly sell medications like OxyContin and Percocet without prescriptions. Back in 2008, Joseph Califano, president and founder of Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, wrote then–Google CEO Eric Schmidt about the matter, expressing his concern over how children were getting their hands on these drugs. What’s worse, he says, is that the ads suggested Google was profiting from this.

Neither the prosecutors nor the search giant have any comment on this, though Google’s SEC filing in May noted that the company was reserving $500 million as a possible resolution for a Department of Justice matter regarding “the use of Google advertising by certain advertisers.” If Google gets fined that amount or more, it would represent the biggest penalty of its kind in U.S. history, say legal experts.

[via CNN Money, image via Getty Images, as noted]


Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...