Last week, President Trump nominated four new commissioners to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”): Joseph J. Simons, an antitrust attorney, as Chairman; Noah Joshua Phillips, chief counsel for Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), for the second Republican seat; Christine Wilson, an executive for Delta Air Lines, for the third Republican seat; and Rohit Chopra, a senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America, for a Democratic seat. By statute, no more than three commissioners may be members of the same political party. The fifth spot on the Commission would remain vacant pending an additional nomination by the President.
If confirmed by the Senate, these four nominees would establish a Republican majority at the FTC. Since early last year, the agency has been operating with just one Commissioner from each party – Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen and Democratic Commissioner Terrell McSweeny. Earlier in the week, President Trump also announced his intent to nominate Acting Chairman Ohlhausen for a seat on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Therefore, these new nominations would completely change the composition of the Commission.
The White House formally sent the names of the four nominees to the Senate for confirmation on January 25, 2018. President Trump had announced his intent to nominate Simons, Phillips, and Chopra to the FTC last October, but did not submit their names at that time.
Two of the nominees will be returning to familiar grounds at 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Simons served as Director of the Bureau of Competition and Wilson served as Chief of Staff to former Chairman Tim Muris during the George W. Bush administration.
Simons currently serves as co-chair of the antitrust group at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He has been nominated to fill McSweeny’s seat for a seven-year term that will expire in 2024.
Phillips, Senator Cornyn’s chief counsel since 2011, previously worked at Steptoe & Johnson and Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he focused on civil litigation. Phillips has been nominated to fill former Commissioner Julie Brill’s seat for a term that will expire in 2023.
Before becoming vice president for regulatory and international affairs at Delta Airlines, Wilson had been a partner in the antitrust group at Kirkland & Ellis. Wilson has been nominated to complete the remainder of Ohlhausen’s term, followed by a seven-year term that will expire in 2025.
Chopra, the sole Democratic nominee, served as assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from 2010–2015, and was appointed as the first Student Loan Ombudsman at the U.S. Treasury Department, a position created as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. In 2016, he was a special adviser to the Secretary of Education. Chopra has been nominated to fill the Commissioner slot that expires in 2019.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has set a hearing for February 14, 2018, to consider the four nominees.