FTC Head Refuses To Remove Herself From Google-DoubleClick Review

Deborah Platt Majoras has refused to recuse herself from reviewing the Google-DoubleClick merger.

In a statement issued Friday, she maintained that she doesn't have a conflict of interest in reviewing the proposed $3.1 billion merger--although her husband is a partner at Jones Day, one of the law firms representing DoubleClick. "I have determined not to recuse myself from this matter because the relevant laws and rules...neither require nor support recusal," she said.

Earlier in the week, two privacy advocacy organizations--the Center for Digital Democracy and Electronic Privacy Information Center--had asked Majoras to recuse herself.

The FTC is currently reviewing the pending deal to determine whether it potentially violates antitrust principles by harming competition in the marketplace. The commission is widely expected to approve the deal soon, possibly as early as this week.

Majoras said that her husband's role as a partner in Jones Day poses no conflict of interest because last year he changed his status to non-equity partner, meaning that he no longer shares in the firm's profits. Majoras also said Jones Day has not appeared before the FTC in the matter.



DoubleClick last week said that Jones Day is only representing the firm in Europe, where regulators also are weighing whether the deal violates antitrust laws. As of last Wednesday, when the two privacy advocacy groups filed the recusal motion, Jones Day's Web site said the firm was advising DoubleClick "on the international and U.S. antitrust and competition law aspects" of the deal. By Thursday, however, all references to DoubleClick were gone from the law firm's Web site.

The advocacy groups vowed to continue to press the matter. "We're not satisfied," said Jeff Chester, founder and executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. Late last week, that organization and the Electronic Privacy Information Center requested all FTC documents mentioning Jones Day in connection with the pending merger and with any complaints about consumer privacy.

Chester also dismissed Majoras's claim that she won't benefit from the deal's approval because her husband is only a non-equity partner. "I don't think that, frankly, meets the straight face test," he commented. 

Legal ethics expert Stephen Gillers told Online Media Daily last week that he believes Majoras has a conflict of interest regardless of whether her husband is an equity partner, because even if he doesn't share in the firm's profits, his compensation and bonuses potentially depend on the financial health of the law firm.

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