The Senate yesterday confirmed all five nominees to the Federal Trade Commission by voice vote, which means the five-person body will soon be restored to full capacity after over a year with only two Commissioners. Current Chair Ohlhausen released a statement congratulating incoming Chair Joseph Simons and soon-to-be new Commissioners Noah Phillips, Becca Slaughter, Rohit Chopra, and Christine Wilson.
Ohlhausen’s statement suggests that she intends to remain at the Commission until confirmed by the Senate to her nomination as a Judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims – with Wilson set to fill Ohlhausen’s seat once she departs. Current Commissioner McSweeny recently announced that she intended to depart the Commission tomorrow, April 27, and that she hoped the Senate would move expeditiously in the confirmation process.
As we previously discussed here and here, the new Chair and Commissioners will bring a breadth of knowledge and experience to the FTC. While working in private practice for the majority of his career, incoming Chair Simons also has significant experience at the Commission, having served as Director of the Bureau of Competition from June 2001 to August 2003 and in other roles at the FTC in the late 1980s. Wilson, currently a Senior Vice President at Delta Airlines, overlapped with Simons during his most recent stint at the Commission while Wilson served as Chief of Staff to then-Chair Timothy Muris.
The other three Commissioners have not previously served at the FTC, but have notable expertise and experience in other areas. Chopra, the only non-lawyer of the bunch, comes most recently from the Consumer Federation of America and previously served as Assistant Director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Phillips and Slaughter will be departing legal positions on the Hill – Phillips serving as Chief Counsel to Senator Cornyn and Slaughter as Chief Counsel to Senator Schumer. As the fifth and final nominee, Slaughter was unanimously reported out of the Commerce Committee earlier this week.
The new slate of Commissioners is expected to shake things up at the FTC. While generally avoiding firm policy positions or legal interpretations during the confirmation process, the appointees affirmed their commitment to vigorously enforcing consumer protection and antitrust laws and expressed distinct interests in specialized topics such as big data and interconnected devices. Now that the confirmation process has run its course, the coming days are likely to shed more light on the key priorities for the new Chair and Commissioners.