The U.S. Department of Justice slapped Google with a $500 million fine this week for knowingly displaying ads for Canadian pharmacies to U.S. residents, when importing prescription drugs into the U.S. is a crime.
The forfeiture, which the feds describe as one of the largest ever, forces Google to return all the revenue it generated from those ads, and pay the feds the estimated gross revenue of the Canadian pharmacy sites that placed the ads.
In a statement, Peter Neronha, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, said the fine "is about holding Google responsible for its conduct" and getting Google's attention, as well as "the attention of all those who contribute to America's pill problem." The fine will reportedly consume more than 20 percent of the company's profits from the first quarter this year.
Apparently, Google revised its policy regarding pharmacy ads in 2010 so that it would only work with accredited U.S. pharmacies and online Canadian pharmacies accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, but the changes weren't enough to satisfy government agents. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Rhode Island's attorney general were also involved in the investigation.