FTC Commissioner Wright Resigns

Is returning to academe

Why This Matters

Democrats will have a big majority on the FTC until a Republican replacement can be installed

Joshua Wright, Republican commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, has resigned effective Aug. 24 to return to George Mason University as a law professor. He will also be the director of the Global Antitrust Institute at the Law and Economics Center. That will leave the commission with a strong Democratic majority and sees the exit of a critic of the FCC's Title II reclassification, which has implications for FTC authority.

"I am honored and grateful to have had the opportunity to serve an agency dedicated to protecting American consumers," he said. "The commission's accomplishments during my tenure--especially our bipartisan effort to provide guidance on the boundaries and meaning of its Section 5 unfair methods of competition authority--have been some of the most fulfilling experiences of my career."

“It has been a privilege to work with Commissioner Wright during his tenure at the Federal Trade Commission,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement. "The agency has benefited greatly from his perspective as a lawyer and economist in connection with the matters that have come before us. We are going to miss him and wish him well on his return to academic life.”

One of his last official acts was to join with the Democratic majority to issue that new guidance on the FTC's Section 5 authority.

Wright had been on the commission since January 2011. His term did not expire until 2019. But Wright had also served two previous stints at the FTC, both as its first Scholar in Residence and in the Bureau of Competition and Bureau of Economics.

Ajit Pai, like Wright a Republican commissioner, only at the FCC, said of the departure: "Commissioner Wright leaves the agency with a

tremendous legacy. He brought to the FTC’s decision-making groundbreaking economic analysis, such as his opinion in Ardagh/St. Gobain that the government should evaluate possible merger efficiencies under a standard of proof similar to that applied to predicted anticompetitive

effects. He proposed and reached across the aisle to accomplish major reforms, such as the FTC’s recent clarification of its Section 5 authority to police “unfair methods of competition” (something the agency had never done in its century-long existence). And he was gracious enough to collaborate with me on several issues, such as Internet regulation."

That is a reference to an op ed the pair penned in the Chicago Tribune saying that Title II reclassification would give the FCC unfettered power and neuter the FTC (http://www.multichannel.com/news/fcc/pai-wright-why-title-ii-wrong/388165).

Early in his tenure, Wright told Congress he thought the FTC and its antitrust authority should be the framework for looking at so-called network neutrality. He said that framework, which asks which agreements will hurt and which will harm consumers, was the better approach. (http://www.broadcastingcable.com/news/washington/blackburn-ftc-could-wind-de-facto-net-neutrality-arbiter/125466).

More specifically, the reclassification moves oversight of Internet privacy from the FTC to the FCC.

"Consumers across the country are better off for Commissioner Wright’s efforts," said Pai.