U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, for the president’s nominees to serve as Federal Trade Commissioners.
The nominees’ questionnaires are available at www.commerce.senate.gov/nominations
- Mr. Joseph Simons, of Virginia, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner, Chairman Designate
- Mr. Rohit Chopra, of New York, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner
- Mr. Noah Joshua Phillips, of Maryland, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner
- Ms. Christine S. Wilson, of Virginia, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
This hearing will take place in Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
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Chairman John Thune
Today we welcome four nominees to testify before the Committee as we consider their nominations to serve as commissioners at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Joseph Simons has been nominated to serve as a commissioner and FTC Chairman, and his credentials are impressive. Mr. Simons served as the FTC’s chief antitrust enforcer, among other positions at the Commission.
Most recently, he served as partner and co-chair of the Antitrust Group at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison.
Christine Wilson is an antitrust and consumer protection attorney, who most recently served as Vice President for Regulatory and International Affairs at Delta Airlines. Among her other credentials, she too has worked at the Commission before serving as Chief of Staff to FTC Chairman Tim Muris during the George W. Bush Administration.
Noah Joshua Phillips is a familiar face to many of us, as he currently serves as Chief Counsel to Senator John Cornyn, where he advises on issues including antitrust, consumer privacy, and intellectual property.
Finally, Rohit Chopra. While not an attorney steeped in competition law, Mr. Chopra does have extensive experience in government service and as a consumer advocate.
He currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Federation of America, and previously served in senior roles at both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education.
Thank you all for being here and welcome to your friends and families who are also joining us.
The FTC is not the largest or most well-known agency under this Committee’s jurisdiction, but it is arguably one of the most influential, given its mission to oversee competition and consumer protection across broad swaths of the American economy.
The FTC was founded in 1914 by the direction of Congress, and for more than a century, the Commission has evolved alongside changing market dynamics and consumer preferences.
The agency was borne out of concern at the time that more needed to be done to ensure competitive markets in the United States and to “bust the trusts” that threatened that competition. The Commission’s focus soon expanded to include a mandate to enforce against unfair and deceptive acts and practices that threaten consumers.
A common theme bridging the Commission’s dual focus on competition and consumer protection is ensuring freedom in the marketplace.
Over its history, and on balance, the FTC has been a strong cop on the beat ensuring that Americans reap the benefits from a functioning economy – not one dominated by firms with unfairly-concentrated market power. The FTC has also made it possible for Americans to be confident in their transactions, to spend freely, and grow the economy with the knowledge that they are largely protected from the fraudsters and cheats who would do them harm.
But the agency has not been without controversy. In the late 1970s, for example, the agency drew criticism for its consideration of a regulation that would have imposed major restrictions on television advertisements aimed at young children in order to reduce the amount of sugar children eat. This regulatory overreach led the Congress to advance heightened procedural safeguards on the Commission’s authority to promulgate rules and led one media outlet to criticize the Commission as the “great national nanny.”
The Commission’s assertiveness and the breadth of its jurisdiction have earned the FTC other nicknames as well. More recently, the agency has been called “the Federal Technology Commission.”
That nickname is actually an appropriate one, given the Commission’s increased focus on the American tech sector and the growing influence of Silicon Valley on the American economy. It is my expectation that the FTC will continue its vigilance on this beat.
Privacy and data security, for example, will remain major consumer protection concerns in the coming years, and issues each of these nominees will contend with, once confirmed. The FTC must continue to bring deception cases where it finds material misrepresentations. And it must bring unfairness cases where it finds substantial harm.
Once again, I would like to thank you all for testifying today and for your willingness to fill these critical posts.
I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any opening remarks.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the nominees for appearing before us today.
While the Federal Trade Commission is a small agency, it’s one with a big responsibility – protecting American consumers. Whether it involves small-time robocallers, multi-million-dollar payday lenders or giant Silicon Valley tech companies, the FTC acts as a cop on the beat that polices a whole host of unscrupulous practices that put Americans’ pocketbooks at risk.
And it’s not just financial harm – public health can also be at stake. In the past, the FTC has cracked down on cigarette advertisements aimed at kids and on phony sports equipment claiming to prevent concussions.
Just recently, the FTC and the FDA sent warning letters to 11 companies who were touting “opioid cessation products.” Given the depth of the opioid crisis in our nation, it’s unconscionable that anyone would prey on vulnerable families in desperate need of help.
While the recent action by the FTC is a positive step, it also raises serious questions about why the agency waited so long to address the opioid crisis. Where was the FTC all these years when drug manufacturers were making deceptive marketing claims about the risks associated with OxyContin and other opioids?
Given this reality, it is absolutely essential that the agency fulfills its mission to protect American consumers in a no-nonsense, nonpartisan and independent manner. Unlike other independent agencies, it has a long tradition of acting on a consensus basis.
The FTC’s mission is too important for individual commissioners to let politics or special interests impede the agency’s law enforcement work. If confirmed, I expect all of you to continue the tradition of past commissioners and work in a constructive, bipartisan and independent manner.
And finally, let me say a word about net neutrality. Simply put, the Federal Trade Commission is not the agency for net neutrality. Despite the amazing things the FTC does, it does not have the expertise, the resources or the authority to adopt forward looking rules to protect broadband consumers.
That’s why I support the CRA to restore the FCC’s critical net neutrality protections. That CRA, though, is not inconsistent with my continuing belief that, in the long-term, only lasting bipartisan net neutrality legislation with real protections can bring the certainty necessary to fully protect consumers and preserve the FCC’s authority.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Joseph Simons
Mr. Rohit Chopra
Mr. Noah Joshua Phillips
Ms. Christine S. Wilson