Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen announced her departure from the Federal Trade Commission upon the expiration of her term today. Ohlhausen was sworn in as a Commissioner on April 4, 2012, and served as Acting Chairman of the agency from January 25, 2017 to May 1, 2018. Commissioner Ohlhausen previously served the FTC in various capacities, including four years as the Director of the Office of Policy Planning.
“It has been a great privilege to serve the American people through the different leadership positions I’ve held in this wonderful agency, including my time as Acting Chairman,” Commissioner Ohlhausen said. “I want to thank my fellow Commissioners and the FTC’s talented, hard-working staff, who take on the toughest challenges in protecting consumers, standing up for competition, and understanding the complex issues facing our economy.”
During her tenure as both Commissioner and Acting Chairman, Ohlhausen focused on strong enforcement of the nation’s antitrust and consumer protection laws, including the key priority of safeguarding consumer privacy and data security.
Under Commissioner Ohlhausen’s leadership as Acting Chairman, the FTC targeted 32 proposed mergers with significant competition concerns, negotiating settlements to protect consumers in 19 of those cases. The agency successfully challenged a number of mergers, including the proposed acquisition by Sanford Health of Mid Dakota Clinic, the tie up of two major specialty chemical companies in the marine industry, Wilhelmsen Marine Services and Drew Marine Group, as well as two major manufacturers of the paint component titanium dioxide, Tronox Limited and Cristal. Competition concerns raised by the Commission during her tenure prompted Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. to restructure its proposed acquisition of Rite Aid Corporation, and the agency filed a complaint to block the merger of specialized software vendors CDK Global, Inc. and Auto/Mate.
The Commission also aggressively pursued its consumer protection mission during Commissioner Ohlhausen’s tenure as head of the FTC. The agency brought or settled more than 138 consumer protection matters during her chairmanship, distributed approximately $300 million in redress directly to over 3.7 million people, and supported programs that delivered more than $6 billion in refunds to consumers.
During her time leading the agency, the FTC was highly active in efforts to protect consumer privacy and promote data security. The agency brought 20 actions, including significant cases against the ride-sharing company Uber, the first connected toys case against VTech Electronics, as well as actions against computer manufacturer Lenovo, peer-to-peer payment service Venmo, and the revenge porn website MyEx.com. The FTC also increased enforcement of the European Union-United States Privacy Shield framework, settling charges against three U.S. companies for misleading consumers about their participation in the framework. In addition, Commissioner Ohlhausen convened an Informational Injury Workshop to examine injuries to consumers from the use and exposure of their personal information, and issued a report recommending steps mobile device manufacturers can take to enhance security for users.
As Acting Chairman, Ohlhausen also strongly promoted policy work and competition advocacy, launching the FTC’s Economic Liberty initiative to spotlight the growing problem of excessive and overbroad occupational licensing. These restrictions can impose real and lasting costs on consumers and workers in the U.S., particularly those trying to climb the economic ladder and military families, who must relocate frequently. Through her Economic Liberty initiative, she expanded the FTC’s cooperation with state and federal leaders, testified before Congress on the issue, and hosted a series of public events to explore ways of identifying and eliminating excessive licensing restrictions. As part of the Task Force’s ongoing work, yesterday it released a Report, entitled, Options to Enhance Occupational License Portability, examining ways to reduce the burden on licensed workers moving to new states or wishing to market services across state lines.
In addition, Commissioner Ohlhausen prioritized protecting consumers in the U.S. military, convening a Military Task Force within the FTC and making agency resources available through a new FTC website. During her tenure as Acting Chairman, the Commission held a workshop to examine scams that can affect military consumers and a Common Ground conference to train attorneys, financial advisors, and other officials to combat fraud against members of the military and their families.
Commissioner Ohlhausen also emphasized strengthening the FTC’s relationships with its law enforcement counterparts overseas. During her tenure as both a Commissioner and Acting Chairman, she engaged with government authorities around the world to promote sound antitrust and consumer protection principles and practices. She also met more than a dozen times with antitrust authorities in China to discuss the development of its antitrust laws and to advocate for the protection of intellectual property rights, due process, and competition-based substantive policies.
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