President Donald Trump has indicated his intent to nominate Joe Simons, a long-time antitrust lawyer, to chair the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The President also has indicated his intent to nominate Rohit Chopra as an FTC Commissioner. Mr. Chopra, formerly of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and currently with the Consumer Federation of America, is a close ally of Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Joe Simons served as Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition (2001-2003) during the George W. Bush administration. During his two-year period as director, the Commission initiated more than 100 investigations into potentially anticompetitive mergers and business practices. Simons brought a greater number of non-merger enforcement actions in one year than any Bureau Director in the twenty-year period prior to his service, and in the fourteen years since. During his tenure as Director, the Bureau investigated anticompetitive practices in a wide variety of industries, including energy, health care and e-commerce. Simons was also a key player in the Commission’s efforts to prevent firms from using exemptions to the antitrust laws to limit competition and inhibit rivals, such as the Commission’s cases against Unocal and Rambus. Because of this record, we expect Simons to be an aggressive enforcer, fulfilling the President’s promise to utilize antitrust and consumer-protection law to protect markets and consumers from unfair, anticompetitive and deceptive practices. In private practice, Simons has represented parties in antitrust merger and litigation matters, including the Rockstar consortium, Sharp Corporation and MasterCard. His public profile suggests, however, that Simons does not have extensive experience practicing before the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and this fact may have influenced the President’s concurrent selection of Rohit Chopra to join the Commission.
Rohit Chopra is currently a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Federation of America and was previously an Assistant Director at the CFPB. He is rumored to be the choice of Senator Elizabeth Warren, well known as an aggressive advocate for strong consumer-protection laws and policies. During his tenure at the CFPB, Chopra was involved in enforcement actions that secured hundreds of millions of dollars of relief for student-loan borrowers, and he is credited as having established a state-of-the-art student-loan complaint system. He also has worked at the Department of Education as a Special Advisor. In a departure from recent and common practice, Chopra is not a lawyer; he has an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. If confirmed, he will be the first non-lawyer to serve as an FTC Commissioner since Orson Swindle, who served from 1997 to 2005. Presently focused on consumer-protection issues relevant to students and military families, Chopra can be expected to push the FTC to adopt policies and pursue enforcement actions that may eventually fall out of favor at the CFPB, given that the current director was appointed during President Obama’s administration. The FTC has a significantly broader-consumer protection mandate than the CFPB. As such, his appointment will give Chopra the opportunity to press for an aggressive, broad-based enforcement agenda that will affect practices across the economy.