US FTC chief says no recusal from Google review

WASHINGTON Fri Dec 14, 2007 12:49pm EST

WASHINGTON Dec 14 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which is reviewing Google's (GOOG.O) proposed purchase of DoubleClick, said on Friday she would not recuse herself even though the law firm her husband works for is representing DoubleClick before European regulators.

Two privacy groups had argued that FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras should recuse herself from the antitrust review because DoubleClick had hired her old law firm, Jones Day, to represent them before the European Commission. John Majoras, her husband, remains at Jones Day.

The $3.1 billion deal would combine Google's dominance in pay-per-click Internet advertising with DoubleClick's market-leading position in flashier display ads.

European antitrust officials are also conducting a review.

In a statement, Deborah Majoras said that her husband was no longer an equity partner in the firm.

"Any decisions that I may make in any case in which Jones Day represent a party cannot be said to directly and predictably affect my husband's interest in Jones Day. Hence, I do not have a financial conflict in this matter," Majoras said in a statement.

Another commissioner, William Kovacic, said that his wife also was a Jones Day lawyer who was not working on the Google-DoubleClick deal. "I have determined not to recuse myself," he added.

The other three commissioners, Pamela Jones Harbour, Jon Leibowitz and J. Thomas Rosch all agreed. "We ... see no legal grounds that would disqualify them from participating in the investigation of the Google-DoubleClick transaction," they wrote in a joint statement.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy had requested Majoras' recusal in a filing to the commission on Wednesday.

Privacy groups have expressed concern about the deal because of the data the companies store on computer users' Internet searches. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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