You couldn’t miss the six-foot sign former FTC Chairman Michael Pertschuk had on his office wall: “Washington’s Headquarters for Magic Tricks Jokes – Fireworks.” He claimed to have salvaged it when a D.C. novelty shop closed, but it seemed purpose-built to describe his seven-year tenure at the Federal Trade Commission.
Magic tricks? He had a few of those up his sleeve. A tireless champion for America’s consumers, his goal was to transform a small federal agency into what he described as “the greatest public interest law firm in the country.” With a creative “Why not?” attitude, a bold sense of mission that attracted energetic attorneys and economists to the agency, and more than a little legerdemain, Chairman Pertschuk reimagined the FTC’s strategy for challenging deceptive and unfair practices in food marketing, tobacco advertising, promotions targeting kids, and everything in between.
Jokes? The joke was on any law violator who underestimated Chairman Pertschuk’s courage and resolve. Never one to back down from a fight to protect consumers, his feisty and fiery approach to the law won him many admirers – and some powerful opponents, too.
Fireworks? A typical day in Chairman Pertschuk’s office could generate more pyrotechnics than July 4th on the National Mall. However, many of the controversial positions he took during his tenure have proven to be presciently true. Always with an eye toward the future, in 1980 he predicted the introduction of “data net terminals” in the home, hoping they would live up to their “great promise for consumers,” but warning about the risks of “lurking dangers.”
Michael Pertschuk – consumer advocate, public servant, and a fighter to the end – died on November 16, 2022, at the age of 89.
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Thank You, Mr. Pertschuk For Your Labor of Love For The American Consumers. May Your Magic Live On, Rest Well Kind Sir.
Does the FTC oversee the big mergers that are happening such as the railroads and the Mariano Jewel merger?
An extraordinary man. May he RIP
Michael Pertschuk was a jewel of a man.