Judge Approves $90 Million Click-Fraud Settlement

A state judge in Arizona has approved a deal that Google struck with search marketers to settle a click-fraud lawsuit for up to $60 million in ad credits and $30 million in attorneys' fees.

In a written ruling signed Wednesday, Judge Joe Griffin found the deal "fair, reasonable and adequate," rebuffing objections of lawyers who represent search marketers in another click-fraud case.

The lawyers who opposed the deal argued that it wouldn't adequately compensate search marketers for their losses due to click fraud, and that many search marketers didn't receive notice of the lawsuit. Griffin overruled those objections, writing that the settlement "will result in substantial savings in time and resources to the court and the litigants and will further the interests of justice."

Google associate general counsel Nicole Wong praised the decision. "We're pleased Judge Griffin has affirmed the settlement as appropriate and fair to advertisers," she said in a statement.

But Atlanta attorney Darren Kaplan, one of the lawyers opposing the deal, said he was "disappointed" in the ruling and intended to appeal. "We intend to exhaust all avenues of appeal," he said. "We'll frankly go all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, if they'll hear us."

Kaplan also represents search marketers who last month reached a settlement with Yahoo in a similar class-action click-fraud case.

Under the Google settlement, search marketers who believe Google charged them for fraudulent clicks dating back to 2002 have until Aug. 4 to seek reimbursement in the form of ad credits.

The deal's opponents last month submitted an affidavit to the court by Greg Hallman, a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin, concluding that the settlement was structured in a way that would result in marketers receiving ad credits for a small fraction of the amount they overpaid. Google argued in court papers that the proposed $90 million settlement fund was "more than fair and adequate."

The extent of click fraud on search engines and their affiliates remains unknown, but some researchers have pegged the problem has significant. Outsell recently reported that search marketers believe that around 15 percent of all clicks are invalid.

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