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FTC chief rejects Google recusal

December 15, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The head of the Federal Trade Commission said Friday that she wouldn't remove herself from an antitrust review of Google Inc.'s purchase of online advertising company DoubleClick Inc., rebuffing requests from privacy groups opposed to the transaction.

Deborah Platt Majoras, chairwoman of the FTC, said she had reviewed a petition from the groups with the agency's ethics official and other staff and determined that "the relevant laws and rules . . . neither require nor support recusal."

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy said in a petition Wednesday that Majoras' husband, John M. Majoras, was a partner at law firm Jones Day. The groups alleged that DoubleClick hired Jones Day to represent the company before the FTC on its acquisition by Google, the leading Internet search company.

The Majorases' relationship "calls into question the ability of the commission to render decisions that are fair and just," the groups said.

Deborah Majoras said Friday that Jones Day hadn't appeared before the FTC on the transaction and is representing DoubleClick only before the European Commission, which is also scrutinizing the deal. John Majoras said he had not been involved in any aspect of the deal.

Federal officials are barred from participating in decisions that could affect their financial interests, Majoras said. But her husband is no longer an equity partner at Jones Day, which means his compensation doesn't change if the firm's income changes, she said.

An FTC ethics official also determined that any appearance of a conflict of interest was outweighed by the government's interest in her participation in the decision, Majoras said.

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