President Trump has announced his nominee for Chair of the Federal Trade Commission, naming Joseph Simon to the position. The President has also announced two additional nominees to fill seats on the Commission, Rohit Chopra and Noah Phillips. If confirmed, Simon, Chopra, and Phillips will join current Commissioner and acting Chair, Maureen Ohlhausen. Current commissioner Terrell McSweeny is expected to leave the agency when her replacement arrives, as her term expired September 25.
President Trump’s nominee for FTC Chair, Joseph Simons, is currently a partner at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP in Washington where he is co-chair of his firm’s antitrust group. He previously served as Director of the FTC Bureau of Competition during the latter years of the Bush administration. While at the FTC, Simons assisted in the development of the current formula for defining markets in horizontal merger cases.
The President also nominated Rohit Chopra, a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Federation of America. Chopra has previously held positions at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Treasury, and the Department of Education.
President Trump’s third nominee, Noah Phillips, currently serves as Chief Counsel for Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX). Prior to his position with Senator Cornyn, Phillips was a counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, and, prior to that, practiced in the law firms of Steptoe & Johnson and Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he focused on civil litigation.
Despite the change in leadership, the FTC is likely to continue its focus on technology and healthcare industries, including a heavy focus on economic analysis in merger reviews and antitrust investigations.
Expectations vary widely regarding the degree of activity anticipated under Simons’ leadership. Traditionally, Republican commissioners tend to be less active in merger challenges. However, during Simons’ approximately two year tenure as Director of the Bureau of Competition, the FTC initiated a total of 46 merger enforcement actions and roughly 70 antitrust enforcement actions, a total of 116 cases. During the 4-year tenure of Commissioner Edith Ramirez as Chair (she also served three years as Commissioner without being Chair), the FTC brought approximately 100 enforcement actions challenging mergers and anticompetitive behavior.
If Simons does choose to pursue more aggressive enforcement, he is likely to have an ally in nominee Rohit Chopra. Chopra is considered an expert on consumer financial services and is well known as an ally of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).