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David Balto, Jan 20, 2009
Within a short time, President-elect Obama will select the new Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). This will be an important decision in many respects the FTC is the leading federal enforcer of competition and consumer protection laws. Because the FTC has no specific industry jurisdiction, it can bring its expertise to bear in numerous markets; as an independent agency it has a greater degree of independence than does the Department of Justice (“DOJ”). And its combined consumer protection and competition expertise permits it to create a unified enforcement agenda to protect competition and consumers. Not surprisingly, the single most admired regulatory achievement of the Bush Administration the do not call list was initiated and directed by the FTC. In many respects, the Chairman of the FTC has numerous assets. The Commission is well respected by companies and consumers alike. And Congress has acknowledged its achievements. In other respects the new Chairman faces unprecedented challenges, as the entire government does. The economic downturn makes competition enforcement even more vital as consumers have suffered from higher prices and less services in concentrated markets.