US FTC commissioner Phillips to resign in autumn

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

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WASHINGTON, Aug 8 (Reuters) – One of the two Republicans on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who has dissented in several antitrust actions against social media companiessaid on Monday that he will resign later this year.

FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips said in a statement he had written to President Joe Biden announcing his intent to resign this fall.

Phillips, a former chief counsel for Republican Senator John Cornyn, dissented in December 2020 in an FTC antitrust case filed against Facebook, which is now known as Meta Platforms (META.O). He also dissented last month when the FTC sought a court order to block Meta from buying virtual reality (VR) content maker Within Unlimited.

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Democrats hold a 3-2 majority on the commission and only three can be from one political party.

The FTC works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law and investigates claims of deceptive behavior by companies.

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

He argued that since President Joe Biden took over antitrust enforcement “has been anything but vigorous—indeed, it has been sclerotic. By that I mean not just fewer cases being brought, but a longer process with fewer decisions being made.”

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

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

He said in January he had received no response. He said “an antitrust investigation predicated 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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