Google's New Policy Chief Weighs Washington Reshuffle

Naomi Nix, Ben Brody and Mark Bergen
Google's New Policy Chief Weighs Washington Reshuffle

(Bloomberg) -- Google’s new global policy chief is considering a shake-up of the company’s Washington lobbying apparatus, according to people familiar with the matter, as the internet giant faces a host of new policy threats, including a change of power on Capitol Hill.

Karan Bhatia, who joined in June, is reassessing the roles of existing staff, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. He’s also mulling new leadership for the team, one of the people said.

This may hasten the departure of Google’s longtime Washington director, former Representative Susan Molinari, according to one of the people. Molinari, a Republican who joined Alphabet Inc.’s Google in 2012, was slated to transition to an advisory role this month, opening up her position as head of policy for the Americas.

As part of his reassessment, Bhatia circulated an empty organizational chart with his name at the top and blank boxes representing all open positions reporting to him, prompting staffers to fear for their jobs, some of the people said. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

Molinari said she resigned from her prior role effective Dec. 31, but the company asked her to stay on in an advisory role. “I will help in whatever way the company needs” as Bhatia works to find a replacement, she added.

Bhatia, a former deputy U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, joined Google after overseeing global affairs for General Electric Co.

Google’s new policy challenges include responding to possible U.S. antitrust scrutiny, new privacy rules in Europe and California and attempts to regulate tech companies’ responsibility for content on their services. That’s a partial shift from issues Google grappled with in the recent past, such as net neutrality, international law enforcement access to data, copyright concerns and an anti-sex trafficking law that increased legal liability for tech companies.

In the U.S., criticism is mounting from both political parties, with conservatives accusing Google, without proof, of suppressing their views in search results. Progressive activists say Google has grown too big and needs to be broken up.

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai testified before a committee of the House of Representatives in December, after angering lawmakers by missing an earlier Senate hearing.

To contact the reporters on this story: Naomi Nix in Washington at nnix1@bloomberg.net;Ben Brody in Washington at btenerellabr@bloomberg.net;Mark Bergen in San Francisco at mbergen10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr

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