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DoubleClick Goes MIA At FTC Chief's Old Law Firm 39

theodp writes "FTC Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras has refused to recuse herself from the agency's review of Google's $3.1B DoubleClick acquisition, despite her current and past ties to DoubleClick law firm Jones Day. EPIC and the Center for Digital Democracy, which had requested her recusal, are keeping up the pressure as DoubleClick-related pages and references have been disappearing from Jones Day's website. Although the statement issued by the Chairwoman suggests Jones Day's DoubleClick representation is limited to the European Commission, the Google cache of one MIA document boasts: 'Jones Day is advising DoubleClick Inc., the digital marketing technology provider, on the international and US antitrust and competition law aspects of its planned $3.1 billion acquisition by Google Inc.'"
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DoubleClick Goes MIA At FTC Chief's Old Law Firm

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  • Quite surprising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gravesb ( 967413 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @04:52PM (#21719630) Homepage
    I'm surprised she's willing to take this kind of risk, and I'm very surprised that Jones Day is aiding her. Its just one client, and one matter before the FTC. Better that she recuse herself and be able to go back to Jones Day with no issues of impropriety than to play games and face some bar action. Most states have more liberal conflict guidelines for government employees, but sometimes arguing the letter of the law isn't worth the PR cost.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm surprised she's willing to take this kind of risk, and I'm very surprised that Jones Day is aiding her.
      Lawyers are this country's ruling class.
      Pride goeth before the fall.
    • sometimes arguing the letter of the law isn't worth the PR cost.
      PR cost? You think this is going to get any play in the media?
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @06:31PM (#21720432) Homepage Journal
      Well, it smells fishy to me. In a nutshell, you are asking why anybody in this position wouldn't recuse themselves?

      If you were looking at a decision in whose outcome you didn't have a stake in, and there was any question of conflict of interest, it would be in your plain self-interest (as you point out) to recuse yourself.

      This leaves only two logically possible explanations: either (a) she's acting against her own self-interest or (b) she has a stake in the outcome. In some universes where government accountability still functions, she could be doing both. But at least one of these has to be true.

      In all fairness, we can't exclude the possibility that she is working against her own self-interest. Maybe the FTC simply can't come to a reasonable decision on anything like this without her unique and valuable participation. Maybe she's just really egotistical. Or maybe she's naive and is being used as a patsy. On the other hand, she was a partner at Jones Day, so presumably she's not naive.

      Of course, we might be missing a third possibility (c) : maybe she doesn't give a rats ass for what the law says if nobody is going to hold her to it. Given that she served under Gonzales at Justice after she left Jones Day, and her former colleagues there would be responsible for going after her, it seems plausible. Naturally this doesn't preclude a, b or both.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cfulmer ( 3166 )
        Or (d) she has a job to do. When you're named to the FTC, it's because your expertise is valued. She should be involved in everything unless theres a strong enough reason not to.

        There are two general duties involved in a Lawyer's duty to avoid conflicts.

        The first is the duty of loyalty -- you generally can't be on "both sides" of a deal, because your duty to be loyal to one side will conflict with your duty to be loyal to the other. So, if one client wants to sue another, they both need to find another l
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hey! ( 33014 )

          Or (d) she has a job to do. When you're named to the FTC, it's because your expertise is valued. She should be involved in everything unless theres a strong enough reason not to.

          Agreed. However, you probably missed that we'd gotten past that point in the thread already, because we've already stipulated that she has the appearance of a conflict of interest -- and a strong one at that. Judges, after all, routinely recuse themselves in these situations. Surely they are chosen because their experience is cons

        • I'm surprised you didn't extrapolate on the concept of loyalty, as in 'misplaced'. She, as a partner in Jones Day, stands to gain or lose monetarily based on the outcome of any action taken by the FTC against DoubleClick. From as straightforward as the amount of work produced by outside counsel that DoubleClick requires. If the FTC were to move against DoubleClick, then all that advice on things related to the merger become irrelevant, and ergo Jones Day doesn't have work they can bill for, and she as a par
          • by cfulmer ( 3166 )
            (First of all, she's not a partner; her husband is. Not really relevant, since his money is presumably hers.) If Jones Day were a small firm, your argument may hold some weight. But, it's among the largest in the US. The portion of his income that's going to come from fees associated with the merger is tiny. And, if the merger is typical, Jones Day has probably already finished most of its work.
        • Besides, you can't realistically have a rule against marriages between lawyers

          Really! Lawyers MARRYING!??? BREEDING??? In this day and age!

          WELL! There should be laws against this sort of thing!!

    • sometimes arguing the letter of the law isn't worth the PR cost.

      What PR cost? Their customers are other big corporations. The American public also has a notoriously short memory, and the voting American public cares more about how tough you are on terrorists and how much corn subsidies you're throwing their way.

  • Privacy (Score:4, Funny)

    by proudfoot ( 1096177 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @04:57PM (#21719684)

    The privacy groups oppose the merger because, they said, it would give one company too much private information about consumers.
    These fears are unfounded. Google has made enough information available for everyone, and I don't think DoubleClick really has any information that can identify you personally.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Janos421 ( 1136335 )
      Not so sure: so far Google defense about privacy was "If you don't like our method, you don't have to use our services".
      But if Googel acquire DoubleClick, you won't have choice, Google will gather information about you.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by iminplaya ( 723125 )
        But if Googel acquire DoubleClick, you won't have choice, Google will gather information about you.

        Even if ad.doubleclick.net ?
    • by ross.w ( 87751 )
      No they don't. because I've been blocking any domain with "doubleclick" in the name for years.
  • Um, Google is one of the parties. Everybody better grab a copy.
  • WTF? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cctoide ( 923843 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @05:43PM (#21720040) Homepage
    I was going to read TFA but I went MIA, probably due to a PEBKAC. Will give a sitrep ASAP.
  • "DC MIA @ FTCC's Old LF"
    The current title just isn't doing it for me.
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Sunday December 16, 2007 @07:05PM (#21720662)
    Also refusing to recuse himself from the DoubleClick acquisition review is FTC Commissioner William E. Kovacic, whose wife - Kathryn M. Fenton - is a partner at Jones Day [jonesday.com]. Fenton is listed as a contact on the web page touting Jones Day's experience with Media clients [jonesday.com], which was recently modified to eliminate DoubleClick.
  • I read this on Friday. Why did it take Slashdot so long to cover this? Oh, and plus, it is incredibly inconsequential news anyway.
  • I can't believe a high ranking member of the Bush administration is so brazenly corrupt.

    What next, pigs rain down from the sky?  It's as strange as that.
  • It's fine for her not to recuse herself. Assuming her husband doesn't work on the DoubleClick matter, or is walled from it, the actual chance of a conflict of interest is remote.*

    You'd basically have to argue that Jones Day (which earns money from billing time, not from the value of the transaction) would profit as a whole from the merger, and her husband, as a partner, would then earn some amount from the increased partnership pool, benefiting her in some way. This would presumably incentivize her to app
  • I'm not sure I see what the conflict is. Unless she had some sort of direct dealing with DoubleClick, Jones Day is the 8th largest law firm in the world with over 2200 lawyers and represents a significant number of major telecommunications companies including AOL, DirecTV, General Electric, IBM, Lucent, Sprint Nextel, Time Warner, Verizon, and Yahoo! (see more clients [jonesday.com])

    What bar should we set here? Should the Commissioner recuse herself from any case relating to any company that has worked with her previous
  • What is it about Google that makes people look the other way?


    "Oh hey - double click and google will soon form a monopoly on data mining and advertising. The one thing standing in their way is a lawyer with a serious conflict of interest. Oh well."

    All the internet nerds in the world bitch and moan about privacy, corruption in the government, the actions evil corporations, and the annoyance of spam and advertising on the web. But when Google's involved, people t

The absence of labels [in ECL] is probably a good thing. -- T. Cheatham