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The FTC’s New Republican Majority and Strategic Plan

President Trump has chosen Joseph J. Simons, a renowned antitrust lawyer that has represented tech giants like Microsoft, to lead the Federal Trade Commission. Simons previously led the competition bureau of the FTC during the George W. Bush administration.

Noah Phillips – chief counsel for Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rohit Chopra – a fellow at a consumer advocacy group, have been chosen to fill the remaining two seats at the Commission.

Naturally, now that the Federal Trade Commission will most likely soon be controlled by a Republican majority, questions have arisen regarding what impact the appointments will have upon consumer protection issues and the types of enforcement actions the agency initiates.

Reading the tea leaves, it clearly appears that the FTC’s focus is shifting to antitrust matters. However, Simons’ approach to consumer protection-related issues remains difficult to predict.

What we do know, at present, is that the FTC has been significantly more aggressive in recent months on consumer protection issues than was widely anticipated, including the launch of coordinated federal-state law enforcement initiatives.

Alongside of a number of recent judicial successes for the dietary supplement industry in terms of what is required to substantiate advertising claims, objective indications are that the FTC is becoming a bit more flexible in terms of how it interprets scientific evidence.

While the senior staff at the Commission remains largely intact, many believe – or hope – that a more “business friendly” agenda is being developed. Of course, the FTC will not abandon its traditional mission of enforcing deceptive claims.

Deregulating the FTC is not easily achieved. Dietary supplements will remain a focus. Particularly susceptible groups, such as the elderly, children, those suffering from a disease, military families and financially distressed consumers will almost certainly continue to be the beneficiaries of aggressive enforcement initiatives and policies.

Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018 to 2022

The Federal Trade Commission has released its draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018 to 2022 for public review and comment. It presents strategic goals and objectives for the next five years, and details how the plan will be implemented in the areas of consumer protection, maintaining competition and organizational performance.

Stated objectives include identifying and taking actions to address deceptive or unfair practices that harm consumers, providing consumers and businesses with knowledge and tools that provide guidance and prevent harm, collaborating with domestic and international partners to enhance consumer protection, identifying and taking actions to address anticompetitive mergers and practices, and optimizing the FTC’s performance.

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ADVERTISING MATERIAL. These materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice, nor do they create a lawyer-client relationship. No person should act or rely on any information in this article without seeking the advice of an attorney. Information on previous case results does not guarantee a similar future result. Hinch Newman LLP | 40 Wall St., 35thFloor, New York, NY 10005 | (212) 756-8777

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Richard B. Newman

Richard B. Newman is an Internet Lawyer at Hinch Newman LLP focusing on advertising law, Internet marketing compliance, regulatory defense and digital media matters. His practice involves conducting legal compliance reviews of advertising campaigns across all media channels, regularly representing clients in high-profile investigative proceedings and enforcement actions brought by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general throughout the country, advertising and marketing litigation, advising on email and telemarketing best practice protocol implementation, counseling on eCommerce guidelines and promotional marketing programs, and negotiating and drafting legal agreements.

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