U.S. tech companies have soared to the top ranks of the Fortune Global 500 in recent years. Foreign regulators say they did it by cheating. Could their crackdown put an end to a great growth story?
POPULAR, AND PILLORIED Apple’s phones and tablets generate as much consumer buzz in Europe as they do stateside, but the company’s tax maneuvers have drawn legal fire from EU regulators.








Revenue growth since 2011 for top U.S. tech companies.

(Global 500 rank in parentheses.)

IT WAS NO ORDINARY FINE. After the European Commission hit Google with a $2.7 billion antitrust penalty in June, in a case related to its shopping results, the search giant scrambled legal teams on two continents to seek redress—while the rest of the U.S. tech industry swallowed hard.

The money wasn’t the issue: $2.7 billion, while a hefty sum, would barely dent Google’s $92 billion cash reserve. But there is genuine fear the EC fine could be the opening salvo in a grisly shoot-out, as regulators in Europe and elsewhere grow emboldened to punish American tech firms, and even meddle in their decision-making, in the name of fairness, privacy, or security.

For years, a handful of the most successful U.S. tech giants have ridden their innovations

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