Deborah Platt Majoras, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, refuses to recuse herself from reviewing Google’s (NSDQ: GOOG) $3.1 billion merger with DoubleClick. Earlier this week, two consumer privacy groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, issued a petition asking Majoras to remove herself from the proceedings after saying she has a conflict of interest. Their reasoning: her husband is a partner at Jones Day, the law firm representing DoubleClick in front of the European Commission, which is reviewing the Google acquisition to see whether it violates antitrust rules; also, Majoras was a partner at Jones Day before taking her post at the FTC.
In her official response, Majoras said has reviewed the group’s petition with the FTC’s ethics official and determined that “the relevant laws and rules…neither require nor support recusal.” In her defense, she said no conflict exists because Jones Day is not appearing before the FTC in this case, and her husband, John Majoras, is not representing either Google or DoubleClick in the EC review. She added that her husband is no longer an equity partner in the firm and that absent a financial interest from either of them, there is no conflict in deciding whether the merger passes regulatory muster regarding antitrust rules. (Via AP)
– United Online: Two days after canceling the IPO of Classmates.com, United Online said in a filing that the FTC has ended its inquiry into autorenewal practices at the social networking site. The inquiry had been one of a number of concerns raised about the company’s prospects leading up to the planned offering. In an interesting bit of timing, the company says it learned that the probe would be dropped on Wednesday, the day it canceled the IPO. A spokesperson for the company has confirmed that the end of the investigation means no action will be taken. Shares of United Online, (NSDQ: UNTD) which also received an analyst upgrade, are up over 7 percent today.