Critics Ask Senate Panel To Probe Google-DoubleClick Merger

The Federal Trade Commission approved Google's merger with DoubleClick late last year, but critics of the deal continue to press their case that the acquisition should have been blocked.

In the latest development, the influential Electronic Privacy Information Center Monday asked a Senate committee to investigate whether the former FTC chair had a conflict of interest in considering the $3.1 billion merger. The group also asked the Senate to slash the FTC's budget by 5% unless the agency provides more information regarding the alleged conflict of interest.

"By approving the Google-DoubleClick merger ... the Commission failed to fulfill its obligations to the public," EPIC wrote in a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee. "There is little point in granting a federal agency more funding or more statutory authority if it acts in disregard of its open government obligations." The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing today about the FTC's performance and whether to pass reauthorization legislation.

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Late last year, EPIC and the Center for Digital Democracy asked former FTC chair Deborah Platt Majoras to recuse herself from the decision because her husband is a partner in the law firm Jones Day, which represents DoubleClick. The law firm purged its Web site of information about its work for DoubleClick shortly after the groups called attention to Jones Day's role in the case. DoubleClick also said that Jones Day only represented the company in antitrust proceedings in Europe.

Majoras, who resigned from the FTC last month, declined to remove herself from the review. She said there was no conflict because Jones Day had not represented DoubleClick before the FTC.

The privacy groups asked for more records from the FTC about the potential conflict, including an analysis prepared by the FTC's ethics official. The FTC did not turn over the information, prompting EPIC to file a lawsuit last month asking a court to order disclosure.

Google finalized the merger last month, hours after European regulators cleared the deal.

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