The FTC’s Clean Slate

Advertising Law

For the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 2018 looks to be a year of transition, with President Donald J. Trump officially submitting four commissioner nominations for Senate approval.

Currently, the commission has just two members: Acting Chair Maureen K. Ohlhausen and Commissioner Terrell McSweeny. But McSweeny’s term expired last September and Ohlhausen was recently tapped for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, giving President Trump the power to completely remake the commission.

Three of the names submitted to the Senate were familiar from a prior announcement by the Trump administration: Joseph Simons (expected to get the nod as chair of the FTC), Noah Phillips, and Rohit Chopra, the lone Democrat among the bunch.

Antitrust attorney Simons, the former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, has been in private practice in Washington, D.C., since leaving the FTC in 2003. Phillips currently acts as chief counsel to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), while Chopra’s experience includes time at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (as assistant director and student loan ombudsman) and the Consumer Federation of America.

The President also added a fourth nominee, Christine Wilson. Currently senior vice president for regulatory and international affairs at Delta Air Lines, Wilson previously served as chief of staff to former FTC Chair Tim Muris and spent several years in private practice in Washington, D.C.

If the nominees are approved, one vacancy—reserved for the second Democratic representative—will remain open.

Why it matters: How the new slate of FTC leadership will affect marketers and advertisers remains to be seen, but if confirmed, several commissioners could have a lasting impact. Simons was nominated for a term of seven years from Sept. 26, 2017; Phillips’ term will run from Sept. 26, 2016 (the date on which the term of former FTC Commissioner Julie Brill expired) until 2023; and Wilson will complete Ohlhausen’s term set to end on Sept. 26, 2018, plus a fresh seven-year term. Only Chopra, who was nominated to fill an unexpired term of seven years from Sept. 26, 2012, faces a brief tenure.



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