Maureen Ohlhausen Is Nominee for FTC Commissioner, Says Obama Administration The Obama administration announced its intention today to nominate Maureen Ohlhausen as the next FTC Commissioner. Ohlhausen, currently a partner with Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, would replace outgoing Commissioner Bill Kovacic, who finishes his term in September of this year. Ohlhausen is no stranger at 600 Pennsylvania Avenue; her prior tour of duty included serving as Director of the Office of Policy Planning (OPP) and as attorney advisor to former Commissioner Swindle. Her prior personal experience with how business is done at the commissioner and the staff level should be an asset. Also for those who track such things this would mark the first female majority at the Commission level since 1997. While Kovacic is a strong antitrust academic, Ohlhausen is a practicing lawyer experienced in issues of privacy and consumer protection. During her tenure, the OPP repeatedly encouraged informative labeling and advertising meant to better inform consumers, as well as clearer disclosure by mortgage lenders and pharmaceuticals. This reflects the growing focus by the FTC on consumer protection issues. With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launching as another agency watchdog on the consumer financial landscape, the consumer protection side of the Commission will clearly not be taking a vacation; instead, it is gearing up with a commissioner likely more interested in taking an active role in directing staff priorities rather than sitting back to see what staff puts on her desk. Should she be appointed, Ohlhausen's presence would also beef up the FTC's growing technology focus. Through the FTC's Internet Access Task Force, Ohlhausen was responsible for reports on competition in broadband connectivity, which touched on the issue of net neutrality, and on municipal provision of wireless Internet. Meanwhile, under her leadership the OPP weighed in on issues of technology ranging from protecting children from online advertising to auctioning wireless licenses. We would not be surprised given her background and interest in technology if Ohlhausen takes a leadership role in the recently announced antitrust investigation into Google's search practices. Ms. Ohlhausen previously served as a clerk to Judge David Sentelle (D. C. Cir.) and to Judge Robert Yock (Fed. Cl.). She received a B.A. from the University of Virginia and a J.D. from George Mason University School of Law, and has since taught Unfair Trade Practices as an adjunct professor at her alma mater. Ms. Ohlhausen has also contributed academically to the analyses of the relationship between advertising and childhood obesity. As this blog has discussed previously, the FTC is an independent agency led by five commissioners who each serve staggered seven-year terms. Although nominated by President Obama, Ohlhausen would fill one of the slots reserved for a Republican or independent– no more than three sitting commissioners may belong to the same political party –as the FTC currently has three Democratic members in the form of Commissioners Julie Brill, Edith Ramirez, and Jon Leibowitz. J. Thomas Rosch rounds out the current roster of Commissioners. – Amy Mudge and Will Thomas
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