US FTC Commissioner Phillips to Resign in Fall

Federal Trade Commissioner Noah Phillips testifies about the “oversight of the Federal Trade Commission” before the US Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security in the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, US, Nov. 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (Reuters) – One of two Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Republicans who disagreed with several antitrust lawsuits filed against social media companies said Monday he will step down later this year.

FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips said in a statement he wrote to President Joe Biden announcing his intention to resign this fall.

Phillips, former lead attorney for Republican Senator John Cornyn, disagreed in December 2020 in an FTC antitrust lawsuit filed against Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms (META.O). He also disagreed last month when the FTC asked for a court order to block Meta from buying virtual reality (VR) content creator Within Unlimited.

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Democrats have a 3-2 majority on the committee, and there can only be three from one political party.

The FTC is working with the Department of Justice to enforce antitrust laws and investigate allegations of misleading conduct by companies.

In April, Phillips said the Biden administration is “as hostile to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as it is in my life.”

He argued that since President Joe Biden, antitrust enforcement has been “anything but vigorous—indeed, it’s been sclerotic. By that, I don’t just mean fewer cases being filed, but a longer process with fewer decisions being made.

The White House has made promoting competition a top priority. National Economic Council director Brian Deese said last month that Biden believes “promoting structural change to foster competition across the economy” will generate “more innovation, greater productivity and more opportunities in the country while will lower prices”.

Phillips and fellow Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson last year asked the White House to disclose any “evidence” of wrongdoing behind high retail gasoline prices after Biden urged the agency to dig deeper into possible “illegal behaviour”.

He said he had not received a response in January. He said that “an antitrust investigation based on fumes would have wasted resources.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Mark Porter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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