FTC Nominee, Majoras, Means More Mergers

Bush FTC Nominee a Triple Threat: To Media Diversity, Affordable Gas Prices, and Role of States

Supporter of Plan to Remove FTC from Media Merger Review to Be Head of FTC Wyden, Boxer and Consumer Groups Express Concern

3 June 2004

Deborah Majoras, a former Bush administration Department of Justice official, who supervised the controversial settlement with Microsoft, is on track to become the chair of the Federal Trade Commission. Majoras, who represents some of the country’s largest oil and media companies, would become the federal government’s lead “consumer advocate.”

But as Senators Wyden and Boxer and a number of consumer groups have made clear, Majoras at the FTC would be bad for consumers, competitors, and citizens alike.

One major objection to Majoras is her stance on the role that the FTC should play in reviewing media mergers. She backed a secret plan developed by the Bush Administration in 2002 that would have removed the FTC from reviewing such mergers. Under the proposal, only the Department of Justice would have had media merger authority. DOJ has been notoriously friendly to the big media companies that lobby an administration (regardless of which party is in charge). Only at the FTC have consumers and competitors been given serious attention (as in the case of AOL and Time Warner, where the FTC imposed some “open access” and non-discrimination safeguards).

As chair of the FTC, Majoras would be unlikely to seek review of media mergers, permitting the DOJ to rubberstamp even more consolidation. While at DOJ, Majoras also led the Bush administration’s backroom deal that approved a much-criticized agreement with Microsoft. The Majoras plan essentially left the computer giant intact, and cut off the crucial rule of the states in imposing more significant safeguards.

Finally, Majoras has represented Chevron-Texaco and other major oil and gas interests, an area that the FTC is supposed to regulate. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ron Wyden (D-Or) have placed a “hold” on the nomination for now, pending assurances that Ms. Majoras will pursue an agenda designed to ensure a competitive gasoline industry.

The Jones, Day law firm, where Majoras works in the government regulation/anti-trust division, represents some of the biggest media (and media-related) companies in the country, including: DIRECTV, General Electric Company,The Goldman Sachs Group, Halliburton Company, Kellogg Brown & Root, Knight Ridder, Lehman Brothers Holdings, Liberty Media Group, Merrill Lynch & Co., Procter & Gamble, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Thomson Multimedia S.A., Time Warner, the Tribune Company, and the Washington Post Company. The firm also represents ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).