FTC Chair's Potential Bias on Google-Doubleclick Deal Questioned

Two advocacy groups opposed to the Google-DoubleClick merger are demanding that Federal Trade Commission Chair Deborah Platt Majoras recuse herself from reviewing the deal because her husband is a partner at a law firm advising DoubleClick.

The groups--Center for Digital Democracy and Electronic Privacy Information Center--said in a petition filed late Wednesday that they learned this week that the firm Jones Day was involved in the $3.1 billion merger. John Majoras, the husband of Deborah Platt Majoras, specializes in antitrust matters at that firm, and Platt Majoras also used to serve as a partner there.

Calling the matter "the most significant review of consumer privacy interests to ever reach the Commission," the privacy groups argued that Platt Majoras's involvement in the review creates at least an appearance of impropriety. They allege that her involvement in any FTC decision approving the deal "calls into question the ability of the Commission to render decisions that are fair and just."



FTC spokesperson Nancy Judy said Platt Majoras is reviewing the petition with the FTC's chief ethics officer. She added that Jones Day had not appeared before the FTC on this matter, and that the agency only learned Tuesday that the firm was representing DoubleClick before the European Commission.

Jones Day's Web site says that the firm "is advising DoubleClick ... on the international and U.S. antitrust and competition law aspects of its planned $3.1 billion acquisition by Google Inc." The site names five principal lawyers working on the deal: Joe Sims, in Washington; Thomas Jestaedt in Brussels; Alexandre G. Verheyden in Brussels; Michael S. McFalls in Washington; and Chris Ahern, in Sydney.

Neither Google or John Majoras could be reached for comment after business hours on Wednesday, when news of the petition first circulated.

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