The head of the Federal Trade Commission said Friday she won't remove herself from an antitrust review of Google Inc.'s purchase of online advertiser, DoubleClick, rebuffing requests from privacy groups opposed to the transaction.
European antitrust officials are conducting a review of the $3.1 billion deal, which would combine Google's dominance in pay-per-click Internet advertising with DoubleClick's market-leading position in flashier display ads.
Two privacy groups had argued that Deborah Platt Majoras , the FTC chairman, should recuse herself from the antitrust review because DoubleClick had hired her old law firm, Jones Day, to represent them. It is also where her husband continues to work.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy said in a petition this week that her husband was an equity partner in the firm, and their relationship calls into question the ability of the commission to render decisions that are fair and just, the groups said. Majoras refuted those claims on Friday.
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.
Majoras is expected to approve the deal, according to Blair Levin, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. On Thursday Levin wrote to clients that her recusal could have led to a 2-2 tie among the remaining four commissioners.