her boss awaited Senate confirmation.
The matter: convince top officials at
the European Union that a proposed
merger between General Electric Co. and
Honeywell International Inc. was just fine
from an antitrust standpoint. Though
both companies were based in the United
States, the EU had parallel jurisdiction
because of the amount of business the
companies did in Europe. Although the
proposed merger was approved by U.S.
authorities, it was blocked by Europe.
“It was huge,” Majoras says. “It was the
first time, and the only time since then,
when the U.S. and the EU were truly at odds
on what should happen.” The EU and the
U.S. had disagreed on antitrust issues in
the past, but not with regard to a merger. In
the end, GE walked away from the merger
rather than continue to fight the EU.
That was Majoras’ first test in government
service; the next would come just two
months later, at the end of September 2001.
The antitrust trial of U.S. v. Microsoft Corp.
had just been sent back down from the
U.S. Court of Appeals, and the new judge
in the case, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly,
ordered the Justice Department lawyers to
immediately start negotiating a settlement;
they were told they had five weeks to get it
done, and if they had to work seven days a
week, 24 hours a day, so be it.
Hearing that order, Majoras sat
stunned. “I almost died when she said it,”
Majoras recalls. Not because this was a
complicated, high-profile case. And not
because it would be a tough negotiation
with both sides deeply entrenched in
their respective positions. What rattled
Majoras most was the part about working
all day, every day, for the next five weeks.
She had had other plans: Her wedding
was in six days.
From the distance of nearly a decade,
Majoras tells that story with a hearty laugh.
At the time, it was not so funny. Still, the
wedding, to fellow attorney John Majoras
of Jones Day, went off as scheduled and
the settlement was reached by deadline.
“Lawyers are good at multitasking,” she
“Debbie worked around the clock
on that,” says R. Hewitt Pate, now vice
president and general counsel of Chevron
Corp. Like Majoras, Pate was then a
deputy assistant attorney general. “It was
a pretty tough time, and she handled it
in a very professional, graceful way. You
never really saw Debbie under stress.”
The settlement required Microsoft
to share its application programming
interfaces with third-party companies
and provide full access to its systems and
records for five years to ensure compliance.
Microsoft’s competitors thought a harsher
penalty was in order. “They claimed this
was a political sellout, and that we were
pro-Microsoft and so they claimed we had
gone easy on them,” Majoras says.
Our shampoo, our diapers—what have
you—there are a lot of fakes out there, and
we’re spending a lot of time battling those
counterfeits.” Her team works closely with
governments to find counterfeiters, who
have artfully crafted the fake products so
that they’re nearly indistinguishable from
the real thing. “Unfortunately, people
might get the alleged Gillette razor and
blade home, try shaving with it and then
start cutting themselves immediately
because, in fact, the counterfeiters are not
using our special technology,” Majoras
says. “Often it’s not until later that
consumers can figure this out.”
The problem is exacerbated online,
“where it’s very easy for people to peddle
these fake goods,” she says. “So we’re
also working with companies in the
online space to have them help us detect
the frauds so that we can actually work
together to squelch them.”
“We can’t let the commercial
marketplace be overrun by frauds,”
Majoras says. “It’s bad for our business
and especially very bad for consumers
because they’re not getting what they
thought they were paying for.”
When she was in government, Majoras
spent a lot of time speaking on the
importance of markets to consumers.
When she was contemplating her next
move after the FTC, she thought: “Instead
of talking about capitalism and business, I
wanted to be part of it,” she says. At P&G,
she is, every day.
It wasn’t hard to go from a law firm to
the government and back to the private
sector, Majoras says. “A lot of people
look at it as you have to choose sides. I
don’t look at it that way.” Law is about
representing your client to the best
of your ability, she says. “That’s what
makes the system work. And you can be
in service to society and feel very good
about what you do.
“It was really important to me to come
to a company that shared the values that
I had. Once I started talking to folks at
Procter & Gamble, it felt very right to me,
that this would be a great place. And I see
the rightness of that decision on a daily
basis. I feel very privileged.”
SUPER LAWYERS / BUSINESS EDITION 2011