Not long into his tenure as Britain’s top financial cop, Nikhil Rathi summoned some of America’s most powerful tech executives for a showdown. A world away from Silicon Valley, Rathi works in a remote government office building in gritty, gentrifying East London. Via videoconferencing, he conveyed his message to the representatives of Google: Scams and get-rich-quick schemes that companies advertised on their site could lead consumers to lose their life’s savings—and the dodgy online material needed to come down.
Rathi had been meeting with Google for months. Like other international companies, the search engine giant argued it couldn’t set rules for a single jurisdiction. “This is serious,” he told the executives, a person familiar with the exchange recalls. “We don’t accept that you’re unable to prevent this.”