Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen announced today that Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, is leaving the agency on February 17 after 26 years of service.
“We are grateful to Jessica for her many years of service to the FTC and the public,” said Ohlhausen. “She is a pioneer in consumer protection who spearheaded major initiatives regarding consumers’ privacy, data security, and financial transactions. Many of the FTC’s programs bear her indelible mark.”
As Bureau Director, Rich managed eight consumer protection divisions and eight regional offices charged with stopping consumer fraud and deception and protecting consumers’ privacy. Under her tenure, the Bureau brought a series of major law enforcement actions that returned billions of dollars to consumers, including cases against Western Union, Volkswagen, Herbalife, Apple, Google, and Amazon. She was appointed Bureau Director by former Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in 2013. Prior to that, she served in a number of senior roles at the FTC, including Deputy Director of the Bureau, Associate Director of the Division of Financial Practices, and Acting Associate Director and Assistant Director of the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.
During her tenure, Rich also led the FTC’s efforts to expand its technological expertise. She created the FTC’s Office of Technology Research and Investigations (OTech) to train staff and assist with tech-related investigations, reports, and public workshops. She hired technologists and attorneys with tech backgrounds to bolster the FTC’s understanding of the evolving marketplace and perform original research. She developed influential FTC policy reports, including reports on the Internet of Things, Big Data, data brokers, mobile apps, and cross-device tracking. And she oversaw public fora on a range of tech-related matters, including ransomware, Smart TVs, drones, and crowdfunding.
As a division manager earlier in her career, Rich spearheaded the FTC’s privacy and data security program, building it from a small team to one of the agency’s signature programs. Among other things, Rich led development of the FTC rules protecting children’s online privacy (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule) and sensitive financial information (Safeguards Rule), and brought precedent-setting enforcement actions to address the privacy and data security practices of Microsoft, BJ’s Warehouse, DSW, TJX, and ChoicePoint.
Rich, who joined the agency in 1991, is a recipient of the FTC Chairman’s Award, the agency’s highest award for meritorious service, and a graduate of Harvard University and New York University Law School.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) also oversees the debt collection industry. In May 2016, Jessica Rich warned the industry that debt collection agencies that fail to live up to their obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act “can expect to hear from the FTC.”
Under Rich, the BCP also regularly pursued bad actors, a practice that receives wholehearted support from the Debt Collection Industry. For instance,
In April 2015 insideARM wrote about the FTC and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office partnering to sue a fake debt collection agency. In the announcement they said they had obtained a court order temporarily halting a fake debt collection scam located in a suburb of Chicago. The defendants were charged with illegally using threats and intimidation tactics to coerce consumers to pay payday loan debts they either did not owe, or did not owe to the defendants.
In May 2015 insideARM wrote about the FTC and the Office of the Florida Attorney General partnering to go after "true Robocallers." They charged a web of related defendants based in Orlando with bombarding consumers with illegal robocalls in an attempt to sell them bogus credit-card interest rate reduction and debt relief services. In all, the complaint alleged the defendants’ robocall scheme bilked consumers out of more than $15.6 million since at least January 2013.
And in June 2015 insideARM wrote that at the first of three "Debt Dialogues" hosted by the FTC, Jessica Rich provided a review of debt collection complaint statistics and data related to enforcement actions. She said "the FTC is very busy with enforcement actions this year, having already filed eight new debt collection cases in 2015." She reported that the FTC had expanded efforts in the debt collection arena, and would continue to do so until the problems abate. Rich also said that they wanted to partner with the collection industry to stop bad actors.