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New FTC Leadership

On April 26, 2018, the Senate unanimously confirmed all its nominees to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), allowing the FTC to regain full strength for the first time since President Trump took office. In the months since President Trump’s inauguration, the FTC has been operating with just two Commissioners.

The Senate confirmed three Republicans and two Democrats. Joseph Simmons, a Republican antitrust attorney, will become the new FTC Chairman. Simmons has worked in both private practice and at the Commission, having served as Director of the Bureau of Competition from June 2001 to August 2003.  

In addition to Simmons, the Senate confirmed Republicans Christine Wilson, a Delta Air Lines executive, and Noah Phillips, chief counsel for Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Republican – Texas).

As for the two open Democrat seats, the Senate also confirmed Rohitha Chopra, having experience at both the Consumer Federation of America and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Becca Slaughter, leaving her position as Chief Counsel to Senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat – New York).

Following Senate confirmation, Simmons, Phillips, Slaughter, and Chopra have been sworn in. Wilson is set to take current Commission Maureen K. Ohlhausen’s seat on the Commission if and when Ohlhausen is confirmed by the Senate as a Judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

More recently, on May 16th, the Commissioners chose Andrew Smith as its consumer protection chief, voting 3-2 along party lines. The nomination was controversial because Smith, as a private attorney, has represented parties currently before the FTC on significant privacy matters, including Facebook.

TAKEAWAY: The new FTC Commissioners will take over ongoing FTC investigations and actions, including that of Facebook, leaving the subjects of these FTC investigations and actions uncertain as to the impact these new appointments may have on their interactions with the FTC directly. The appointment of a full new slate of Commissioners is sure to bring its own challenges, as the Commissioners find their feet, shape their views, and establish the priorities of the Commission moving forward.