Yesterday President Trump designated Maureen Ohlhausen acting chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission.
Ohlhausen is a Republican, and has been serving as an FTC commissioner since 2012.
Prior to joining the Commission, Ohlhausen was a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, where she focused on FTC issues, including privacy, data protection, and cybersecurity.
Ohlhausen previously served at the Commission for 11 years, most recently as Director of the Office of Policy Planning from 2004 to 2008, where she led the FTC's Internet Access Task Force. She was also Deputy Director of that office. From 1998 to 2001, Ohlhausen was an attorney advisor for former FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle, advising him on competition and consumer protection matters. She started at the FTC General Counsel’s Office in 1997.
Before coming to the FTC, Ohlhausen spent five years at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, serving as a law clerk for Judge David B. Sentelle and as a staff attorney. Ohlhausen also clerked for Judge Robert Yock of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims from 1991 to 1992.
Ohlhausen graduated with distinction from Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University in 1991 and graduated with honors from the University of Virginia in 1984.
The new chairwoman is known for advancing the concept of "regulatory humility," such as in this 2015 speech to the American Enterprise Institute in which she relates a tale from Greek mythology. She said:
The story of Procrustes warns us against the very human tendency to squeeze complicated things into simple boxes, to take complicated ideas or technologies or people and fit them into our preconceived models. ...The lesson of Procrustes for regulators and policymakers is that we should resist the urge to oversimplify. We need to make every effort to tolerate complex phenomena and to develop institutions that are robust in the face of rapid innovation.
In a speech on Wednesday to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Ohlhausen opened with these comments:
Today, I will provide my ideas for how the FTC can improve its work for consumers and the American economy. Although well intentioned, the majority Commission under President Obama at times pursued an antitrust agenda that disregarded sound economics. It imposed unnecessary costs on businesses, and substituted rigorous analysis of competitive effects for conclusory assertions of “unfair competition.”
Earlier this week President Trump appointed Ajit Pai to lead the Federal Communications Commission, a move widely viewed with optimism by the ARM industry. Ohlhausen's appointment is another positive development for legitimate firms in one of the most regulated industries in the U.S.
While Chairwoman Ohlahusen does not have rulemaking authority for debt collection -- an extremely complex market -- one can't help but think about how the CFPB's proposed rulemaking might look different under the concept of regulatory humility.
Thomas Pahl, a partner at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, has known Ohlhausen for more than two decades and has worked closely with her. He added this:
“President Trump made a wise choice in selecting Ohlhausen. She is a superb lawyer who is a fighter for her deeply-held commitment to free markets and less regulation. While she is at the FTC’s helm, the collection industry should anticipate that her views will be reflected not only in the FTC’s enforcement work, but also in the views that the FTC advocates before other federal and state agencies.”