It appears likely that — for probably the first time since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was established — we will have five new commissioners in the same calendar year. Earlier in 2018, only two of the FTC’s
five seats were filled. Terrell McSweeny’s term expired, and
she left the Commission on April 27. Maureen Ohlhausen,
who began the year as acting chair, has been nominated
for a position on the federal bench and is expected to leave
once she is confirmed by the Senate.
FTC commissioners are nominated by the President and
confirmed by the Senate for a term of seven years, subject
to the rule that no more than three commissioners may be
from the same political party. The President also designates
who is to serve as chair. Note that the seven-year terms are
set — rather than running from when an individual is confirmed — so that some nominees will fill remaining shorter
To date, four individuals have been nominated, passed
through the Senate Commerce Committee, and sworn in.
In addition, the Trump administration nominated a fifth
commissioner, who is confirmed and awaiting Ohlhausen’s
The New Leaders
JOSEPH SIMONS (R) became chairman on May 1. He was
nominated to take McSweeny’s seat, with a term that expires in 2024. Simons is a highly regarded antitrust lawyer
and has worked in this for most of his professional career.
Before that, Simons served at the FTC as the director of the
Bureau of Competition (as head of antitrust enforcement)
from 2001-2003. During his tenure the FTC was active in
both merger and non-merger enforcements. Prior to that, he
was a partner at law firm Clifford Chance, and earlier in his
career he was the Bureau of Competition’s Associate Director for Mergers and Assistant Director of Evaluation. Simons
is generally regarded as having a strong interest in bringing
economic analysis to bear on antitrust
law and his published articles reflect this.
He is not believed to have much in the
way of consumer protection experience.
NOAH PHILLIPS (R) comes to the FTC
A Full Slate for the FTC?
from the Senate, where was chief counsel
for Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) at the Sen-
ate Judiciary Committee. He fills a seat
for a term that expires in 2023. Phillips was at the Senate
since 2011, and his work in that role touched on issues relat-
ed to the FTC, including antitrust matters and oversight of
the agency. Earlier in his career, Phillips clerked on the Fifth
Circuit before practicing in the private sector at Cravath,
Swaine and Moore, and later at Steptoe and Johnson. Phil-
lips is listed as a “contributor” on the website for the Fed-
eralist Society, an organization that advocates conservative
principles in the legal profession.
CHRISTINE WILSON (R) is a senior vice president at Delta
Air Lines. She has been confirmed to take over Ohlhausen’s
seat. At Delta, she leads the legal and regulatory teams, but
Wilson has self-described her specialty as antitrust law. She
has been recognized by publications such as Chambers USA
and Euromoney as a leading antitrust attorney. Before be-
coming an executive at Delta, Wilson was a partner at Kirk-
land and Ellis and, prior to that, at O’Melveny and Myers,
where she counseled clients on antitrust and consumer
protection issues. She also served as the chief of staff to FTC
Chairman Tim Muris in 2001-02, where she would have
dealt with a wide range of consumer protection issues.
ROHIT CHOPRA (D) is one of two Democratic commis-
sioners, filling a term that expires in 2019. In contrast to
the other nominees, Chopra is not a lawyer. His relevant
consumer protection experience has focused primarily on
student loan issues. From 2010 to 2015, he worked at the
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), where he
served as assistant director and student loan ombudsman.
After the CFPB, Chopra was special advisor to the U.S. Sec-
retary of Education. In that role, he also focused on student
loan servicers and providers. Currently, Chopra is a senior
fellow at the non-profit Consumer Federation of America,
and previously he held the same title at the Center for
American Progress. In an article last year on fine print in
consumer agreements, Chopra was quoted as saying “fine
print is often a way to give companies plausible deniability
that they aren’t breaking the law.”
REBECCA SLAUGHTER (D) was sworn in on May 2, taking
over a term that expires in 2022. Slaugh-
ter served as chief counsel to Senate Mi-
nority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Prior to that, she was counsel to Schum-
er on the Senate Judiciary Committee
and had a brief stint at the law firm Sid-
ley & Austin after graduating from Yale
BY AMY MUDGE AND RANDAL M. SHAHEEN