Did Neronha go "off the reservation?"

In the "in case you missed it" category:

Interesting item in the Wall Street Journal this week - it had appeared on's Law Blog a week earlier - focused on Rhode Island US Attorney Peter Neronha, who brought a big case against Google for knowingly running ads for rogue online pharmacies. It resulted in a $500 million settlement.

Google, as the paper notes, was quite contrite when the settlement announced.

But more recently, the company has suggested that the government also had something to apologize for. At a Feb. 29 pretrial hearing in a shareholder lawsuit, a lawyer for Google accused the U.S. attorney who brought the case of himself going rogue during an interview with The Wall Street Journal last August.

“The U.S. attorney in Rhode Island went off the reservation and gave a long interview about all the evidence and why it was he was so excited about the case,” lawyer Boris Feldman told the judge at a Delaware state court. “It ended up being so far off the reservation that the Justice Department apologized to Google for it and muzzled him.”

Did the Justice Department apologize to Google and muzzle the U.S. attorney, Peter Neronha? Not according to his office.

“The U.S. attorney has never issued apologies to anyone in this matter,” a spokesman said. “As far as the suggestion that the U.S. attorney has been ‘muzzled,’ I can only point to the fact that we recently held a widely attended press conference” at which he answered media questions about the case.

Maybe the Justice Department apologized on his behalf? “We did not apologize,” a department spokeswoman said. For its part, Google declined to comment, saying: “Google does not comment on its discussions with regulators.”

The blog entry continues with this:

The exchange highlights lingering questions about the way the criminal case was handled. In the settlement, the Justice Department secured one of the largest forfeitures in its history against one of the country’s most recognizable companies.

Usually such big settlements are unveiled by top officials in Washington, but the Google event was held in Providence, R.I. National media weren’t invited and the department couldn’t provide a call-in number, a transcript or video of the event.

The Journal called Neronha the next day. In an interview, he said knowledge of the illicit conduct went all the way to the top of the company, including the current chief executive, Larry Page. Page has declined to comment on that allegation.

Neronha’s comments were a red flag to plaintiffs’ lawyers, who have since filed several shareholder lawsuits in California and Delaware.



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