What We Heard From Four FTC Nominees

The Senate Commerce Committee convened a hearing for the president’s nominees to serve as Federal Trade Commissioners:

  • Joseph Simons, of Virginia, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner, Chairman Designate
  • Rohit Chopra, of New York, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner
  • Noah Joshua Phillips, of Maryland, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner 
  • Christine S. Wilson, of Virginia, to be a Federal Trade Commissioner

There was little sign that the nominations would run into trouble during a hearing that touched on everything from multi-billion dollar mergers to annoying phone calls and scams, Reuters reported

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the ranking Democrat on the Commerce consumer protection subcommittee, said that the FTC has a unique position to promote the growing movement to challenge tech giants and other corporate behemoths that have come to dominate the economy. “I think there’s a real opportunity for this new populism that we see sweeping the country to be articulated, and in fact enforced, through your advocacy going beyond your narrow legal jurisdiction,” Sen Blumenthal said.

Axios reports that the nominees moved carefully around a question about their views on Big Tech’s growing power, pledging generally to enforce antitrust laws but not firing any broadsides against companies like Facebook and Google.

  • FTC chair nominee Joseph Simons: “Sometimes big is good, sometimes big is bad, and sometimes it’s both at the same time. Oftentimes companies get big because they are successful with the consumer, they offer a good service at low price, and that’s a good thing and we don’t want to interfere with that. On the other hand, companies that are already big and influential can sometimes use inappropriate means, anticompetitive means, to get big or to stay big — and if that’s the case, then we should be vigorously enforcing the antitrust laws and attacking that conduct and prohibiting it.”
  • Commissioner nominee Christine Wilson: “I know there have been questions about whether the antitrust laws as currently crafted are sufficient to address these issues and I would like to affirm my view today that in fact the antitrust laws as written today are broad and flexible and are capable of adapting to evolving technology. … I understand that there have been investigations into companies in the past, there has been a lapse of time an technology has evolved, and so it may make sense to take another look at concerns that have been raised.”
  • Commissioner nominee Noah Phillips: “Like many Americans, I experience daily the incredible impact that many of these firms have on my life. … I think the FTC has a very big role to play here in applying the law fairly, in applying it carefully, and very importantly in continuing to keep abreast of changing trends in the markets.”
  • Commissioner nominee Rohit Chopra: "I agree with Mr. Simons that there’s a real role to continue to look back at past actions to determine whether models and empirical analysis have been accurate, how they can be evolved, but I think it’s an area that we need to be humble and continue to learn to effectively understand dynamics in this marketplace."

The Hill said the slate on nominees plans on making data breaches a top priority for the agency.


What We Heard From Four FTC Nominees Nominee Questionnaires (Senate) FTC nominees tread carefully around Big Tech (Axios) What We Heard From Four FTC Nominees FTC commissioner nominees open to investigating tech companies (Reuters) Nominee for FTC chairman signals scrutiny for tech giants (Washington Post)