Let this be a lesson for firms to keep their Web sites accurate. This week, two privacy groups petitioned for the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Deborah Platt Majoras, to recuse herself from the agency’s review of Google’s proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick. The groups said that Jones Day was advising DoubleClick in the merger proceedings before the FTC and that Majoras, who is herself a former partner with the firm, is married to Jones Day antitrust partner, John Majoras.
The groups alleged that this creates a conflict of interest because the chair and her husband would benefit financially from the merger, and the groups bolstered their claims with a firm Web page that said Jones Day was representing the company in the merger overseas and in the U.S. The firm soon took down the offending Web page, which led to speculation about whether the firm was hiding something. This was further compounded after online publications found the Web page anyway through Google's cached material.
The Web site, evidently, was incorrect. Jones Day is advising DoubleClick in its European merger discussions but not in the U.S., where Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has the account.
For his part, John Majoras says that he has never done any work for DoubleClick and that Jones Day has not represented the company before the FTC on the Google deal. “These two individuals read it and made some claims based on it. Those claims were wrong and why leave something up that leads at least two people in the wrong direction,” he says.
Today, Majoras’ better half released a statement saying that she would not recuse herself from the Commission's Google/Double Click review based on a consultation with the FTC’s ethics officer. According to FTC regulations, a newly appointed official has a 12-month cooling off period in which he or she cannot have dealings with former employers. Majoras recused herself from matters that included her former firm for 16 months.
Furthermore, her husband, who was an equity partner with the firm, decided to become a nonequity partner when the cooling off period was over. “As of January 1, 2006 I’ve taken steps to ensure that my compensation from the firm is not based on the profitability of the firm,” says Majoras. “That was a material change that I voluntarily took if that were to provide some assistance in assessing these types of issues.”