I’m a longtime consumer protection practitioner but a new blogger in a new role. Now, I am well aware that there are many talented folks out there writing about these issues, but I will try my best to make these entries worthwhile, concise and valuable reads, with maybe just a touch of snark. And after this one, I promise to make them far less about me and far more about what’s going on at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and occasionally other consumer protection and privacy enforcement agencies.
In days past, you might have been able to get some good insights and helpful information from listening to career FTC staff speak at conferences, trade associations and other public events. But those days of frequent, insightful FTC staff on the speaking circuit have been on hold for many months now. Making blogs like this perhaps even more useful than days gone by. I am still a bit perplexed as to why the massive merger-filing surge prevented consumer protection staff from speaking, but I digress.
Now let’s dive into a quick overview of me, which is a phrase I never thought I would use and which causes me intense discomfort. I’m a 23-year FTC veteran and started my time there litigating advertising cases (including some old classics such as Rexall Sundown and the Kevin Trudeau coral calcium case). I ended up as the deputy director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection for most of the past decade, including a stint as the acting director in early 2021. I advised a former chairman for three years, and I even got to manage one of the FTC’s eight regional offices (Atlanta) for a few months.
I recently left the FTC to join BakerHostetler’s D.C .office in the Digital Assets and Data Management Practice Group. And my new co-partner (Is that an actual word?) Amy insists that readers will want to know a few things about me. Although I run the risk of turning this blog into the world’s worst dating profile, I will say that when I am not doing this stuff, I am far too fond of escapes to Vegas, really bad science fiction movies, the Barefoot Contessa and “What We Do in the Shadows.”
So back to the task at hand. At the FTC, I have seen it all – quite a lot of administration changes and quite a lot of consistency from administration to administration. But the consensus seems to be that this transition is different. The priorities appear different, the cast of characters are different and the approaches are different, as evidenced by, among other things, the recent distribution of hundreds of Notices of Penalty Offenses and the contents and omissions in what has been referred to by some as the Khan manifesto. I found it particularly fascinating that a Washington Post article was dissecting her calendar entries in order to glean insights into her priorities. There is far more interest in the agency than I have seen in quite some time.
As a federal employee, there are of course reasonable limits to what you can say publicly about your agency and your work. And as someone who recently left the federal government, I am eager to talk more openly about the work of the agency (subject to ethical constraints that I do take very seriously). So please stick with me as I (and some of my new colleagues) talk about the new FTC, what the agency is up to and what some of this may mean for your business or clients going forward. This promises to be an interesting few years and I hope you will stay tuned.