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Reports: Simons to Be Nominated FTC Chair

President Donald Trump will tap Joseph Simons, former director of the Federal Trade Commission's Competition Bureau under President George W. Bush (2001-2003), to head the agency, according to various reports.

The nomination is not on the White House web site, and has not been put on the Senate calendar, so at press time it was not yet a done deal.

Simons is co-chair of the antitrust group at law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, in Washington.

According to a Justice Department bio, Simons was also at one time one of the top 10 wireless license holders in the country. That was when Justice and the FCC and a district court approved him as trustee for four wireless businesses related to the GTE/Bell Atlantic/Vodafone deal. He managed the divestiture of those licenses/businesses, performing a similar role for the Cingular/AT&T deal.

Simons also helped develop the "critical loss analysis" technique for defining markets that was later adopted by the FTC's antitrust division as well as Justice. The two agencies divide up Hart Scott Rodino antitrust reviews of mergers over a threshold of about $75 million in value.

Republican Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, the only Republican on the FTC at the moment, has been acting chair since the President took over in January.

The FTC will be taking the lead on broadband privacy and security issues if, as expected, the Republican FCC votes to roll back Title II classification of ISPs, which had transferred authority to the FCC. Generally it is the Justice Department that does the antitrust vetting of mergers in the communications space, in concert with the FCC's public interest review.

Currently the FTC is down three members, with only Ohlhausen and Democrat Terrell McSweeny holding down the fort. The FTC does not require three commissioners to make up a quorum, but the decisions can obviously only be bipartisan ones.

That has included this week's decision to settle with Uber over its representations—the FTC said misrepresentations—about its protection of data.

(Photo via Jeff Kubina's FlickrImage taken on June 20, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

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.