Recently, President Trump announced that he sent names of four nominees to serve as commissioners on the five-member Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to the Senate for approval. If all four of the nominees are confirmed, it will still leave one remaining vacant seat on the FTC, which has been operating as a bipartisan two-member interim agency since early last year. The nominees, three of whom were announced last fall, consist of three Republicans—Joseph Simons, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson—and one Democrat, Rohit Chopra. No more than three commissioners can be of the same political party, and the President chooses one commissioner to act as chairman. President Trump said last October that he planned to name Simons as FTC Chairman if he was approved by the Senate. Simons is currently an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C., but previously served as director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition from June 2001 to August 2003. The current acting FTC Chairwoman, Maureen Ohlhausen, was recently appointed by President Trump to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Phillips currently serves as chief counsel to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, and Wilson is senior vice president for regulatory and international affairs at Delta Airlines. Chopra is a former assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and was recommended by Senator Charles Schumer as a potential Democratic nominee.
FTC commissioners serve staggered seven year terms in order to prevent all the seats becoming vacant at once, but the FTC has been operating with an abnormally high number of vacancies since early last year, when former Chairman Edith Ramirez resigned. If confirmed, the new commissioners will be charged with overseeing corporate mergers and acquisitions and enforcing consumer protection laws. They will also bring a measure of stability to an agency that has been operating without its full five-member roster for about a year.