FTC Chairman Joseph Simons Announces Resignation; Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter Designated Acting Chair; Staff Reshuffling

FTC Commissioner Joseph Simons, who has served as Chair since May 2018, has resigned as a result of the administration change.  This is not surprising as the party in charge of the White House holds the ability to appoint a majority of the FTC Commissioners (i.e., three).  Additional announced departures include General Counsel Alden F. Abbott; Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Andrew Smith; Bureau of Competition Director Ian Conner; Bureau of Competition Deputy Directors Gail Levine and Daniel Francis; Bureau of Economics Director Andrew Sweeting; Office of Public Affairs Director Cathy MacFarlane; and Office of Policy Planning Director Bilal Sayyed.

In the wake of Commissioner Simons’ resignation, President Biden designated Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter as Acting Chair of the FTC.  Slaughter has served as a Commissioner since May 2018. She previously served as Chief Counsel to Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Senate Majority Leader.  Commissioner Slaughter has frequently filed dissenting or concurring statements on FTC actions seeking additional relief beyond what the FTC has obtained in announced settlements. 

The following interim directors have also been appointed: Reilly Dolan (General Counsel), Daniel Kaufman (Bureau of Consumer Protection Director), Maribeth Petrizzi (Bureau of Competition), Michael G. Vita (Bureau of Economics) and Sarah Mackey (Office of Policy & Planning).

Further departures are anticipated.  Indeed, President Biden has nominated FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB).   Like Commissioner Slaughter, Chopra has been an advocate for more aggressive rulemaking and enforcement efforts.

Take away:

The FTC under former President Trump was surprisingly aggressive in its consumer protection efforts.  One would expect that those efforts would continue under a Biden Administration.  In addition, if Commissioner Chopra heads up the CFPB, that agency will undoubtedly increase its enforcement activity.

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