Google is a behemoth. They control up to 70% of all internet searches and as much as 90% of mobile searches. Basically, they rule what we see, by deciding what we find. That is an immense amount of power for a company to have.
It becomes a weapon when they partner with government entities in promoting an agenda as witnessed in May when Google announced it would no longer allow ads from online and short term lenders to be seen. The Washington Post reported:
Google announced that it will ban all payday loan ads from its site, bowing to concerns by advocates who say the lending practice exploits the poor and vulnerable by offering them immediate cash that must be paid back under sky-high interest rates.
Google is especially fond of President Obama and his beloved Operation Choke Point plans. Operation Choke Point has been used to hurt gun sellers and many small businesses like the small dollar lenders because the Obama Administration has attempted to circumvent congress through regulatory abuse enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB is one of the most powerful tools for the Obama Administration as it has the ability to enforce rules as if they are law…but they are not law, they are simply more bureaucracy.
Call them what you want, the rules put out by the CFPB are devastating to those who find themselves on the wrong side of Obama Administration.
According to the Daily Signal:
Government Documents say Operation Choke Point was designed by the Justice Department in 2012 to “attack Internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking fraudsters’ access to the banking system.”
The program has become little more than a powerful way for the Obama Administration to put the financial squeeze on entire industries they don’t like, such as firearms sellers and payday lenders.
Here’s where it gets interesting. It turns out Google wasn’t just playing along with Obama for the good of the world and to rid us of harmful companies. Oh no, Google is heavily invested in a short term loan company called, LendUp, and apparently they were more interested in crushing the competition than anything altruistic.
Basically, Google, is more interested in the bottom line than anything else.
LendUp is a company that is a subsidiary of Flurish Inc. Flurish Inc. was the recipient of investment money from Google Ventures (GV), a company that operates independently from Google, yet was founded by Google as a venture arm of the company.
In a moment full of irony, Operation Choke Point has come back to bite Google!
LendUp has found itself in violation. Oops! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Those unaccountable government organizations are difficult to control sometimes. I’m sure Google has a back room meeting set up real soon with whoever let this doozie slip through.
Matthew Zeitlin of Buzzfeed details out just what LendUp/Google did and how much they have to pay in fines:
The online lending startup LendUp will pay compensation to its customers and a penalty to a federal regulator, which said the company “hid the true cost of credit” and “misled customers about graduating into lower-priced loans.”
In total, the company will pay out over $6 million, with money going to customers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and California’s Department of Business Oversight.
LendUp, a startup based in San Francisco, offers small, short-term loans at high interest rates through its website. The company says it’s different from old-fashioned payday lenders because it tries to build up the credit history and financial capabilities of its customers. LendUp also promises “no hidden fees” and “clear terms and conditions.”
Google has the power and the means to decide what companies make it and what companies don’t. That would be illegal unless they had the backing of a government tool like Operation Choke Point. The fact that their own company is getting dinged is rather delicious, but the abuses perpetrated to many good companies is horrific.
Operation Choke Point has literally crushed many American businesses. Most of them don’t have the backing of a company like Google to pay the fines and keep their company coming in the searches. Most of those companies have been eliminated by the weight of crony capitalism at its worst.
Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have introduced legislation to take a shot at ending Operation Choke Point. It would be nice to see Google change its position and stop implementing a discriminatory ban on gun sellers and online lending ads that gives their own company, LendUp, a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Sadly, I won’t hold my breath. It will take something the Cruz/Lee bill actually coming online to force a company like Google to fight fair in the marketplace.
Image: By Jijithecat – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34858492