WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission stepped down today, cutting the five-member commission down to just two members with no new nominees in sight as President-elect Trump prepares to enter office.
Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, an Obama appointee sworn into office in April 2010, will leave the commission on Feb. 10.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to lead the Federal Trade Commission and to have played a role in advancing American consumers’ ability to navigate fast-paced digital markets and promoting business competition across the economy,” Ramirez said. “I thank my fellow commissioners and all of the talented FTC staff for their support and dedicated public service during my tenure.”
Ramirez’s office noted that during her tenure as chairwoman, which began in 2013, the FTC “brought nearly 400 law enforcement actions covering a range of consumer protection issues and approximately 100 enforcement actions challenging anticompetitive mergers and business conduct in major sectors of the economy, including the healthcare provider, pharmaceutical, retail, and energy markets.”
“These law enforcement actions secured billions of dollars in redress for harmed consumers, and stopped anticompetitive corporate mergers that would have caused price increases, compromised quality, or hurt innovation,” the release added.
That included successful legal action against mergers of Sysco and U.S. Foods and Staples and Office Depot.
FTC commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but no more than three of the five commissioners can belong to the same political party. The president selects the FTC chairman.
FTC Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen was sworn in back in 2012, and Commissioner Terrell McSweeny assumed her post in 2014.
The New York Post reported that Ramirez was “urged to leave” the commissioner altogether by the Trump transition team, potentially due to her antitrust views.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, thanked Ramirez for her service and expressed concern that the FTC now drops to just two commissioners.
“Since this is an agency that was meant to operate with five commissioners I expect the next president to nominate new commissioners shortly, and I hope the Senate will confirm them swiftly,” Lee said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), ranking member of the committee, lauded Ramirez as possessing “a real commitment to the Federal Trade Commission’s mission.”
“She obtained a $10 billion settlement for consumers defrauded by Volkswagen, her agency litigated as many as eight antitrust cases simultaneously, and she exemplified the best qualities of a public servant,” Klobuchar said.