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Courts

Rhode Island pension fund named to lead Google class action

The $8.1 billion Rhode Island Employees' Retirement System, Providence, was appointed lead plaintiff in a shareholder class-action lawsuit against Google's parent company, Alphabet.

In a court order signed Jan. 25, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California, Oakland, approved the request by Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner to be named lead plaintiff.

Mr. Magaziner, who oversees the Rhode Island State Investment Commission, said in a statement that Alphabet "misled regulators, users and the public regarding its failure to secure users' information."

In October, it was revealed that Google executives knew about, but did not disclose, a breach in its Google Plus platform that compromised the personal information of 500,000 users. Google later announced the number of users whose private information was compromised without their permission or knowledge was about 52.5 million users.

"Google knew that there had been a security breach and that users' private information had been compromised, and instead of disclosing the information, they chose to hide it," Mr. Magaziner said.

The order consolidates multiple similar class-action suits against Alphabet into a single class action. Parties objecting to the consolidation have 10 days to file their objections with the court.

Evan England, spokesman for Mr. Magaziner, said Google's "egregious" behavior warranted the lawsuit.

"We watch closely the behavior of companies in which we invest," Mr. England said in an interview. "Usually that involves proactive conversations about how to improve practices. In this case it was both appropriate and necessary to seek restitution."