FTC at work outside the Beltway

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This week, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first FTC regional office. According to the Commission’s 1918 Annual Report, the FTC first established three branch offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco in order to handle the agency’s growing workload. Right away, these offices were conducting investigations, writing reports, and contributing to the work of the agency. Over the years, the FTC has added additional offices located outside of Washington D.C., taking the Commission’s work closer to the consumers we work to protect.

Today, three regional offices do competition work (the Northeast Region (NER), the Northwest Region (NWR), and the Western Region (WR)), and staff at these outside-the-Beltway locations continue to contribute seamlessly to the FTC’s competition mission. For instance, staff in the Western Region are currently leading a team of litigators from throughout the Bureau preparing for the administrative trial in a case involving an alleged conspiracy among dental supply firms. Last year, staff from the New York office successfully litigated the FTC’s challenge to the Hershey/Pinnacle hospital merger, securing a preliminary injunction blocking the merger, and a Third Circuit Court of Appeals opinion validated the Commission’s approach to analyzing hospital mergers. And earlier this year, Northwest Region staff were responsible for investigating and settling an important and innovative case involving shared ownership between two online placement services for senior living facilities. These are just a few among many key cases spearheaded by our regional offices—and I haven’t even mentioned their important contributions to many matters originating from our DC office, where regional staff work alongside our Washington-based lawyers to enforce our nation’s antitrust laws.

None of this is surprising, because regional office staff are full members of the FTC team who just happen to live somewhere other than Washington. But their “not-in-Washington” perspective benefits both the FTC and those in local communities served by the regional office. Regional office staff often attend local outreach events, and maintain strong relationships with other local enforcers, such as state Attorneys General. For instance, I recently attended an event hosted by the Western Region in San Francisco that brought together antitrust law enforcement partners from the offices of 11 western state attorneys general to discuss shared law enforcement priorities. Also, the ability of the regional offices to cross-pollinate the FTC’s competition and consumer protection missions provides a valuable addition to our perspective on enforcement.

For 100 years, the FTC has maintained a network of regional offices because their work enhances the agency’s mission to protect consumers. Personally, it’s been my particular privilege to work closely with our regional offices in both my current tenure at the FTC and in my prior stint here from 2001-2004, where one of my original responsibilities was supervising competition work in our regional offices. I hope you’ll take the time to read about other contributions by the FTC’s regional offices over the years.

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