It's official: President Donald Trump has named Maureen Ohlhausen as acting chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.
For a couple of weeks, the FTC will still have a Democratic quorum, since there are currently two Democrats—former chair Edith Ramirez, who isn't exiting until Feb. 10, and Terrell McSweeny.
Ohlhausen could be named permanent chair, but Trump met with former Republican FTC commissioner Joshua Wright on the same day he met with Ajit Pai, who he ultimately named permanent FCC chair, so Wright's name is likely in the hopper.
“I am deeply honored that President Trump has asked me to serve as Acting Chairman of the FTC and to preserve America’s true engine of prosperity: a free, honest, and competitive marketplace,” said Ohlhausen. “In pursuit of that mission, I will work to protect all consumers from fraud, deception, and unfair practices. I will safeguard competition while preserving American innovation and promoting economic liberty for all citizens. Finally, I will ensure the Commission minimizes the burdens on legitimate business as we carry out this vital work.”
At the State of the Net conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, she signaled that if she got the big chair, the FTC would focus on "real harms" rather than speculative ones. She also said she would take a page from Trump's Art of the Deal: Maximize your options and use your leverage.
Ohlhausen has been on the FTC since April 4, 2012. Her term is not up until September 2018.
Before joining the commission, Ohlhausen was a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, where she headed the FTC practice.
Before that she spent more than a decade at the FTC, most recently as director of the Office of Policy Planning.
She is also former clerk to Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a familiar name for his participation on the panel in FCC-related court challenges.
Prior to serving at the FTC, Ohlhausen spent five years at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Ohlhausen is a graduate of George Mason University School of Law and the University of Virginia.
“We congratulate Maureen Ohlhausen on her appointment as Acting Chair of the Federal Trade Commission," said Comcast senior EVP David Cohen, the comapny's top policy exec. "As an experienced commissioner, she has earned a reputation for sound and insightful commitment to the core mission of the FTC -- protecting consumers and promoting competition and innovation -- and for her ability to work with her colleagues to develop consensus, while promoting economic liberty. We look forward to working with Acting Chair Ohlhausen in her new role.”
Kathleen Ham, T-Mobile’s SVP, government affairs, Tweeted: “All the best to @FTC Acting Chairman @MOhlhausenFTC!”
"Commissioner Ohlhausen is a thoughtful and pragmatic regulator, who immerses herself in the issues and practices rational regulation - or, as she refers to it, 'regulatory humility,'" sid Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro. "She has been an advocate for innovation in all sectors of U.S. business, particularly in fortifying the trade position of U.S.-based corporations in the global 21st-century economy, and understands the technologies that are coming before the FTC with rapidly increasing speed. She is mindful of our new digital world and how regulatory structures need to respond flexibly to promote innovation, while protecting consumers from significant harm. CTA looks forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Ohlhausen to strengthen America's leadership in the new economy, particularly commonsense patent reform."
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.