FTC Chair Won't Sit Out DoubleClick Review

Said There Was No Conflict of Interest With Husband's Legal Work for Company

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras is rejecting a petition she recuse herself from the agency's review of Google's purchase of DoubleClick because of her husband's employment.
Deborah Platt Majoras
Deborah Platt Majoras Credit: AP

The Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center this week said that because Ms. Majoras' husband worked at law firm Jones Day, which is doing work for DoubleClick, it created a conflict of interest. The groups said the conflict was best handled by Ms. Majoras not participating in further consideration of the deal.

In a letter and statement today, Ms. Majoras said Jones Day is doing European work on the deal and isn't representing the company at the FTC. According to the statement, the petition's claim that her husband is an equity partner at the law firm and was the firm's business-development specialist and could thereby benefit from the deal's approval was factually wrong. She said her husband dropped his equity interest in 2006.

"After reviewing the relevant facts and consulting with the FTC's designated agency-ethics official, the general counsel, my fellow commissioners, and members of my staff, I have determined not to recuse myself from this matter because the relevant laws and rules, as detailed below, neither require nor support recusal," she said.

Ms. Majoras has never stated her position on the FTC's review of the $2.1 billion deal but in the past has shown stronger support for proceeding than some Democratic commissioners.

The petition mentioned only Ms. Majoras, but FTC Commissioner William E. Kovacic said today his wife also works at the law firm and also is a non-equity partner. He said he also sees no conflict.

The Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center today said Ms. Majoras should still recuse herself. "We do not believe the chairman has made a persuasive case," the groups said.
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