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Deborah Platt Majoras

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Deborah Platt Majoras

Deborah Platt Majoras was appointed May 11, 2004, by President George W. Bush to be Chairman and Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). She was sworn in on August 16, 2004; President Bush had announced his intention to appoint her to the position on July 30, 2004. [1] In early 2008, she announced that she was leaving the FTC to become vice president and general counsel for Procter & Gamble, the largest U.S. consumer products company. [1]

Majoras filled the FTC vacancy created by Timothy J. Muris, who announced May 11, 2004, that he would step down to return to academia. [2]

"The Federal Trade Commission chairwoman is the FTC's point person on its gasoline price gouging inquiry in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, in her prior life at the Jones Day law firm she was also the point person for ChevronTexaco and Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. In 2004, Senator Ron Wyden opposed her nomination for her refusal to outline the steps she would take to investigate and fight gas price gouging." [2]

Recess appointment

Majoras' original appointment was set aside because "senators who were concerned about how tough she'd be about rising gas prices put her confirmation on hold. So Bush appointed her without them, during the Senate's August recess. After he renominated her [in November 2004], Majoras was confirmed to a term that ends in 2008." [3]

"A number of consumer advocacy groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the United States Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause, [had] sent letters to the Senate Commerce Committee, raising serious concerns about Majoras’ nomination." [4]

Her appointment was sent to the Senate September 10, 2004, and she was confirmed November 21, 2004, according to White House nomination records.

Senator Wyden put appointment on hold

On June 10, 2004, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) "released research from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) indicating that Federal law would require Deborah Majoras, ... to recuse herself from some oil and gasoline industry issues coming before the Commission. Majoras has personally represented the oil giant ChevronTexaco as outside counsel in the last year; according to CRS, such a 'past association' requires an official’s recusal from any cases involving that company for one year. Moreover, a current economic interest – which in Majoras’ case is her spouse’s continued partnership in the same law firm that represents ChevronTexaco – would require either recusal or an 'express waiver' of the rules to allow her further participation in such cases. This has special ramifications for the hard-hit West Coast gasoline market because of ChevronTexaco’s major presence there. ...

"Wyden has already publicly placed a 'hold' on Majoras’ nomination as FTC chair, due to her inability to present concrete initiatives to change the FTC’s long history of inaction on anti-competitive practices in the oil industry and in oil and gasoline markets. Wyden has long urged the FTC to use its existing authority to crack down on practices that force gasoline prices higher for American consumers; however, the agency has consistently failed to do so. Wyden says he will not allow the confirmation of another FTC chair until that person demonstrates specific intentions to stand up for American consumers on gasoline pricing issues."

"Deborah Majoras won confirmation to serve as Federal Trade Commission chairwoman until 2008, after Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., dropped his hold. In August [2004], Bush had given Majoras a recess appointment -- good through the end of next year -- to get around Wyden's move." [5]

Related links

Controversy revisited

On September 22, 2005, Think Progress reported that controversy is again beginning to develop concerning Majoras's background with Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, her prior representation of major oil and gas interests and the will of the FTC to "protect America's consumers". [6]

"Wayne State University Law School Professor Stephen Calkins commented about FTC Chairman Deborah Majoras and her decision to frequently recuse herself from major proceedings that involve clients of her former law firm Jones Day, where her husband, John Majoras, is still employed. The practice of avoiding any contact with cases that may involve conflict of interest has become more problematic as Washington professionals cycle between government service and private sector jobs. 'It might be better if there were some agreed-upon standard,' Calkins said. 'Allowing people to decide for themselves could be difficult. That's inevitably going to lead to criticism that you are either too lax or too critical.'" --Cecile Kohrs Lindell, New York Law Journal, October 4, 2005.

Conflicts of interest & other issues

Hurricane Katrina Price Gouging Probe

Junk food

  • "For the past year, the FTC has been urging broadcast stations, cable operators and other media to reject ads for bogus diet-drug ads and report such marketers to the FTC. Some in Congress are also calling on the FTC to restrict food marketing to children. Majoras says that is unlikely to happen unless Congress specifically orders the FTC to do so." --Bill McConnell, Broadcasting & Cable, April 4, 2004.
  • "The latest salvo in the war on added sugar and fat came July 14-15, [2005,] when the Federal Trade Commission held hearings on childhood obesity and food marketing. Despite the fanfare, industry had no cause for concern; FTC chair Deborah Majoras had declared beforehand that the commission will do absolutely nothing to stop the rising flood of junk food advertising to children." --Gary Ruskin & Juliet Schor, The Nation, August 11, 2005.

Related links

Food labeling & diet-drug ads

"The new chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission wants the agency to play a more active role in the national campaign against obesity," Caroline E. Mayer wrote in the September 10, 2004, New York Times. "'I am pushing for us to come up with a game plan on where we can fit in,' Deborah Majoras said Thursday during her first interview since she took office."

"While the agency already goes after misleading claims made in ads for food and diet programs, Majoras said she wants the FTC to do more to educate consumers, including working with the Food and Drug Administration to update labeling requirements."

"Majoras said she embraces the concept that the agency's job is to 'stand up for the consumer.' But repeatedly she said that much of that advocacy will be through enforcement. 'We can educate consumers, but going after the fraudsters . . . is very much a law enforcement aspect'," Mayer wrote. "Thus, [Majoras] said, she wants to refer more fraud cases to state and federal law enforcement agencies for criminal prosecution. The FTC can file only civil lawsuits."

Related links

ChevronTexaco & Unocal

August 2, 2002: "Since he took office, Bush has 'allowed an increase in oil refinery mergers to go unchecked' and rampant consolidation 'may have contributed to the highest gasoline prices in 20 years.' The Bush administration has approved 33 oil refinery takeovers worth $19.5 billion and hasn't tried to block any." --The Progress Report.

November 2002: While Majoras was working in the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice, it was reported that R. Hewitt Pate, "the 'internal' candidate for the job will be 'acting assistant attorney general for antitrust' when Charles James leaves. Meanwhile James’s right-hand woman, Deborah Majoras, whom he made his emissary on several key matters, and who had lobbied hard for the top job, will be the principal deputy. Majoras is to be promoted to 'the second ranking person at the Division' according to the DoJ press release. She is already one of the deputy assistant attorney generals. James, however, is moving in-house, to ChevronTexaco."

"Deputy Assistant Attorney General Deborah Majoras, a former partner at Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue ... also was a top lieutenant to James." --Jaret Seiberg, The Deal, November 19, 2002.

June 10, 2005: The Federal Trade Commission "cleared the way for Chevron Corp. to acquire Unocal Corp. for $18 billion, voting 4-0 to settle a two-year-old complaint against Unocal alleging anticompetitive practices. ... The settlement ends a legal fight between Unocal and the FTC over the energy company's rights to a patent for reformulated gasoline.

"The regulatory agency said the key element of the settlement is Chevron's agreement not to enforce patents of a Unocal subsidiary that could have increased gasoline prices in California by over half a billion dollars a year, or almost six cents a gallon.

"The FTC's long-standing complaint alleged that Unocal subsidiary Union Oil illegally acquired monopoly power in the technology market for producing low-emission gasoline mandated by the state of California." --Associated Press, June 10, 2005.

Majoras "recused herself from reviewing ChevronTexaco Corp.'s bid to buy Unocal Corp. She had represented Chevron as a lawyer." --Associated Press, April 2005.

August 2, 2005: "[F]ollowing a public comment period, the Commission approved the issuance of two consent orders. The first concerns Chevron Corp.’s acquisition of Unocal Corporation. The second relates to the settlement of the Commission’s administrative complaint against Unocal’s subsidiary, Union Oil Company of California, for engaging in alleged anticompetitive practices. The Commission vote approving each of the final consent orders was 3-0-1, with Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras recused." --Antitrust Blog, September 2005.

Related links

Valero Energy Corporation & Premcor, Inc.

"Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras recused herself from reviewing the merger" of Valero Energy Corporation and Premcor, Inc., "which would create the largest refiner in North America, because a client of her husband's law firm, Jones Day, is involved in the transaction." --Associated Press, April 2005.

Identity theft

In March 2005, Majoras "pointed out to the Senate committee hosting a hearing on compiled data and information theft that there is no single federal law governing the practices of data brokers, but went on to say that there are statutes that address the security of the information they maintain, depending on how the information was collected, and how it is used. These include the Fair Credit Reporting Act; the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act; and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

"While data compilers are subject to this 'patchwork of laws,' recent events pointed up the need for extending the Commission’s safeguards rule to sensitive personal information collected by data brokers is 'one sensible step that should be taken,' Majoras said.

"She also suggested implementing a federal requirement for prompt notice to consumers when there has been a security breach that raises a significant risk of harm to consumers. But she acknowledged that in some cases, overzealous use of notification when there is no risk of fraudulent use might lead consumers to ignore notice of more serious data compromises." [7]

"Majoras went on to say that extending these types of procedures to cover other consumer data might be a reasonable way for Congress to proceed, as the procedures could be tailored to the sensitivity of the information under discussion." [8]

Related links

  • ID Theft, FTC website. Testimony by Majoras and other FTC Staff members.
  • Claire Swedborg, "FTC Readies an RFID Report," RFID Journal, October 5, 2004: "The Federal Trade Commission chairman affirms FTC’s jurisdiction over RFID and announces plans to issue guidelines on the technology."
  • Response to Claire Swedborg, "Senator Queries FTC about RFID," RFID Journal, September 20, 2004: "U.S. Senator Bill Nelson asks the Federal Trade Commission to explain its role and strategy for addressing RFID’s potential risks to privacy."

Comcast, Walt Disney & Microsoft

"Comcast has dropped its bid for Walt Disney, and the feds' case against Microsoft is all but over. But both issues live on in the fight over Deborah Majoras, the White House's pick to head the Federal Trade Commission. A former Justice Dept. antitrust lawyer, Majoras, 40, angered state officials who thought she was too soft in negotiating a settlement with Microsoft. At her June 2 hearing, however, lawmakers will focus on her role in a 2001 plan to hand FTC oversight of media mergers to the more partisan Justice.

"The proposal was part of a reorganization promoted by departing FTC Chairman Tim Muris and Charles James, Majoras' former boss at Justice. Joe Sims, a partner at law firm Jones Day, where Majoras worked before and after her 2001-03 stint at Justice, helped shape the plan. It sank when Senator Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), then Commerce Committee chairman, got wind of it." --Lorraine Woellert and Mike McNamee, Business Week, June 7, 2004.

Related links

Profiles

Prior to her nomination, Majoras served as a partner in the antitrust section of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, a recognized world leader in antitrust practice that has acted as defense counsel in some of the largest antitrust cases ever. In 2001, she was appointed deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division and was named principal deputy in November 2002. She was chair of the International Competition Network’s (ICN) Merger Working Group, served as a non-governmental advisor to the ICN and was named by President Bush to serve on the Antitrust Modernization Commission. Her husband, John M. Majoras, is also a partner of Jones Day, with a focus, there, on antitrust. [9]

The December 21, 2003, Business Wire reported that

"Deborah Platt Majoras, currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, will return to Jones Day as a partner in its Antitrust and Competition Law Practice on January 1, 2004.
"Stephen J. Brogan, Managing Partner of Jones Day, commented, 'Debbie's return after nearly three years at the Antitrust Division will strengthen a practice that is already one of the leading antitrust practices in the world. Her experience at the Antitrust Division, where she was involved in most of the significant enforcement decisions during that period, has undoubtedly enhanced her ability to advise clients effectively, and her talents will add to the firm's capacity to provide comprehensive advice to our clients on a broad range of antitrust issues.'
"During her tenure at the DOJ, which began in April 2001, Ms. Majoras' responsibilities have spanned the civil, international, and policy fronts. She oversaw matters involving numerous industries, including software, financial networks, defense, health care, media and entertainment, banking, and industrial equipment. She played an instrumental role in the Department's successful resolution of U.S. v. Microsoft, and recently argued the appeal of that case before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In addition to Microsoft, she was responsible for supervising a large number of other matters, including First Data/Concord, GE/Honeywell, General Dynamics/Newport News, Univision/HBC, Northrop Grumman/TRW, NT Media/Village Voice, and 3D Systems/DTM. Her additional responsibilities have included serving as the Chair of the International Competition Network's Merger Working Group and overseeing policy initiatives such as the Division's Merger Review Process Initiative, the Merger Best Practices Project, the Merger Remedies Manual, and the DOJ/FTC Health Care Hearings. She was a frequent speaker on behalf of the Division.
"Ms. Majoras graduated summa cum laude from Westminster College in 1985 and received her law degree in 1989 from the University of Virginia, where she was Articles Editor for the Law Review and a member of Order of the Coif. Following her graduation from law school she clerked for Judge Stanley S. Harris, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (1989-1991). She is a member of the Illinois, Ohio and Washington, D.C. Bars. She is also a member of the American Bar Association's Antitrust Section, where she previously served as associate editor of Antitrust magazine and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Section 2 Committee and as a member of the Long-Range Planning Committee."

"The Jones Day biography of Majoras references her experience in representing large pharmaceutical companies in antitrust matters. However, she also had some experience at the DOJ working on technology related cases, including the Microsoft and First Data/Concord cases." --Tech Law Journal Daily, May 12, 2004.

Related links

SourceWatch resources

External links

References

  1. Robert Weissman, "How Things Work: FTC Chair to Join Procter & Gamble," Multinational Monitor editor's blog, March 26, 2008.
  2. PERRspectives Blog, September 26, 2005

Speeches by Deborah Platt Majoras

Interviews with Deborah Platt Majoras

Articles & commentary

Outgoing Chairman Timothy Muris announced his resignation yesterday,"] Computer World, May 12, 2004.