Commissioner Christine Wilson of the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that she will be stepping down on March 31, 2021. This news comes after Wilson had served as a Republican Commissioner for the FTC for nearly five years. Her term had been set to conclude in September 2021.
Wilson was nominated to the FTC in August 2016 by former President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in January 2017. During her tenure on the FTC, Commissioner Wilson has strongly advocated consumer protection and data privacy.
Christine Wilson’s appointment to the FTC
On June 29, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump nominated Republican Commissioner Christine S. Wilson as a full-time Commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). On August 3, 2017, the Senate unanimously confirmed her appointment and she was sworn in on August 25, 2017. She will step down from the FTC on March 31 2021 to join the University of Minnesota’s Law School faculty as Senior Fellow in Law and Markets.
Before joining the FTC as a Commissioner, Wilson worked as associate general counsel in international competition law at The Boeing Company since 2010. Also, he served as general counsel for Procter & Gamble’s Global Home Care Business Unit/Global Home Care Legal Team from 2007 until 2012. During her tenure at the FTC under Chairman Joe Simons, she has taken various measures to promote fairness and competition in markets alongside her fellow commissioners including voting for settlements with companies like Volkswagen while addressing deceptive labeling issues amongst industry competitors at Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
Wilson was known as a strong advocate for consumer protection throughout her career at The Boeing Company and Procter & Gamble. She proposed or negotiated various global competition law or consumer protection initiatives that have broadly impacted both sectors. As an FTC commissioner, she supported ecommerce companies by speaking out against laws limiting their ability to compete with more established players, such as state legislation enacted in Louisiana limiting internet sales tax collections from out-of-state retailers.
Wilson’s tenure as FTC Commissioner
Christine Wilson has been an FTC Commissioner since October 2018. She was nominated by President Donald Trump in June 2018, and was confirmed by the Senate in late September of that year. During her tenure, she has helped to lead the FTC’s efforts to combat deceptive behavior and protect consumers from fraud. She also played a major role in continuing the agency’s efforts to monitor mergers and acquisitions and promote market competition.
Wilson has overseen numerous high-profile FTC enforcement actions against companies such as Facebook, Google, Uber Technologies Inc., AT&T Inc., Macy’s Inc., and General Motors Co. Additionally, she has worked closely with state attorneys general on jointly filed scams such as robocalls and cash advance schemes. Most recently, she spearheaded a comprehensive study of the Financial Service Sector that mandated banks modify their customer financial service agreements for greater customer clarity.
Furthermore, Wilson has worked closely with members of Congress on protecting consumer data privacy legislation that would give additional rights to individuals when it comes to how their sensitive data is collected, used, shared or sold online. Additionally, she serves as an active member of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Executive Committee and Domestic Policy Council that advises President Trump on major domestic policy issues.
Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson to step down on March 31
Recently, Republican Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Wilson announced her resignation from the agency, effective March 31. Wilson’s departure leaves a vacancy for a new commissioner and it is widely speculated that her resignation was due to various reasons.
Let’s explore the causes of Wilson’s departure and the potential implications of her resignation for the FTC.
On February 10, 2021, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Commissioner Christine Wilson released a statement explaining her reasons for resigning from the role effective March 31. In her resignation letter, Wilson highlighted her commitment to the role and thanked President Joe Biden for his “deep respect” for competition in the marketplace. She also noted that although the FTC serves an important function and has a vital mission, she felt “it is time to step back” and focus on her other passions.
Wilson mentioned how her role at the FTC enabled her to pursue several initiatives, such as providing technical assistance to emerging antitrust authorities in Asia Pacific countries and promoting consumer education through public events with partners in South Africa. Additionally, Wilson strongly advocated maintaining governmental regulation of big tech firms such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple.
In addition to these trade related efforts, Wilson championed many other issues during her time at the FTC including healthcare reform and equitable treatment of consumers by banks and credit companies. She encouraged stakeholders broadly – from Congress members to industry leaders – never to forget the millions of people who benefit from fair competition and sound economic policies.
Speculation about the reasons for her resignation
Since Christine Wilson announced her departure from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), speculation has circulated about the reasons for her resignation. In her statement, Wilson did not indicate why she was resigning, stating only that she was “thankful” to have been allowed serve and to have taken part in “engaging initiatives” during her tenure.
While there has been no official comment from Wilson or other sources, widespread speculation has suggested that disagreements between commissioners within the FTC itself could be a possible factor in the resignation. For example, it is possible that a disagreement about policy direction or enforcement priorities could have played a role in encouraging an early departure by a member of one political party or another. On the other hand, it is also possible that personal considerations were at play, such as family commitments or an attractive professional opportunity elsewhere.
In any case, Wilson will certainly leave behind a legacy as an impressive Commissioner who energetically served within the FTC with prudence and sound judgement.
Impact of Resignation
On March 31, 2021, Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson will step down from her position, immediately impacting the Federal Trade Commission’s rulings and procedures.
Wilson’s resignation will leave a significant void on the FTC’s five-member commission as it works to protect consumers and promote competition.
This article analyzes the potential outcomes of her resignation on the agency.
Effect on the FTC’s current agenda
Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson has announced that she will step down on March 31, leaving the Commission with two Republican and two Democratic members. This can potentially affect the current agenda of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC ensures fair competition within industries and protects consumers from false or deceptive advertising. However, with an even split in members there is a risk that decisions may not easily pass through a 3-2 party line vote, hampering the efficiency of decisions being made. In addition, any area requiring immediate action may need to be decided by an outside court or regulatory body, further pushing back progress.
In addition, pending regulatory proceedings within certain industries may be delayed if both Commissioners cannot agree on the outcome. Furthermore, due to Wilson’s resignation the balance of power within specific industries may shift away from fair competition on issues such as mergers and acquisitions. As a result, action that had been taken towards some companies under Wilson’s guidance may also no longer hold anymore. Likely, any currently pending litigation will also take longer to resolve due to her departure and associated delays in deciding cases with only four Commissioners present at any given time.
Given these potential implications from Wilson’s resignation, it remains to be seen how this affects FTC’s ability to promptly act upon its current agenda items.
Potential for a new Commissioner to be appointed
With the resignation of Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson, this opens up the potential of President Joe Biden to nominate a new FTC Commissioner. If a nominee is confirmed, there would be five commissioners on the FTC Board, with Democrats holding a 3-2 majority.
A committee hearing would likely need to be held to ensure that any nomination moves forward in the Senate. During this hearing, any nominees for a position on the board will need to be confirmed by senate vote. These votes are usually split along party lines unless either party decides to break rank and support another candidate. No nominee may be put forth if the parties do not agree or cannot come to consensus on this issue.
Suppose a nominee can gain approval from both sides of the aisle. In that case, they could then hold significant power with majority control on determining policies and directives enacted by the Commission and consumer protection litigation matters brought forward before it.
It is important for all stakeholders in consumer protection matters to stay informed as possible details surrounding this process become available.
Reaction to Resignation
The news of the resignation of the Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson has been met with mixed reactions from lawmakers and members of the business world alike.
While Wilson has been prominently known to challenge Big Tech, many Democrats are worried that her replacement could harm their efforts to regulate the industry. On the other hand, Republicans are hopeful that her replacement could tilt the balance of power and help Big Tech in certain areas.
Let’s take a closer look at the reactions to Wilson’s resignation.
Statements from political figures
Upon the announcement of Wilson’s resignation, several political figures have spoken out with positive messages of encouragement and comments about her tenure as commissioner.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi released a statement applauding Wilson’s leadership and commending her “tireless efforts to defend and promote the public interest.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly expressed gratitude for her work. He praised her “significant impact on many areas, including privacy, competition and consumer protection, technology innovation and fairness in our domestic market.”
President Trump issued a statement lauding Commissioner Wilson’s five years at the FTC: “Christine has been an exemplary Commissioner who looked out for hard-working people and stood up for fairness and economic opportunity. She will be missed at the FTC but I wish her all the best in her future endeavors. Under Chair Joe Simons, we are confident that enforcement activity at the FTC will remain strong going forward.”
In addition to positive comments from elected officials, others in the tech industry are expressing their gratitude for Commissioner Wilson’s service to consumers over these years. For example, electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Executive Director Sonia Sherman praised Wilson’s efforts to protect net neutrality during her term, noting that ‘Commissioner Wilson was always willing to listen to both sides of any argument was a voice for reasonability.’ Similarly, Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker appreciated her strong voice advocating for ordinary people against powerful industry giants.’
On March 31, Republican Federal Trade Commissioner Christine Wilson will depart from her post at the FTC. Her resignation comes one day after the Senate confirmed her fellow Republican, Rebecca Slaughter, to her role in the Federal Trade Commission.
As the FTC enters a new stage, it is important to consider what this change means for the agency’s future.
Potential impact on the regulation of tech companies
The departure of Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson is expected to significantly impact the Commission’s direction. As a key member of the agency, Wilson has been vocal in her support for stronger regulations of tech companies and her efforts are likely to be missed by those who share that sentiment.
Wilson’s exit coincides with the Biden Administration’s appointment of President Joe Biden’s Director of the National Economic Council, Gary Gensler, as chair of the SEC. This suggests that aggressive new regulations from both agencies will likely arise in the coming months, fulfilling President Biden’s promises to crack down on big tech companies like Google and Facebook.
Wilson has long advocated for strong privacy rules, pushing for updates to tech companies’ data handling practices. She also strongly supported fining large tech companies for violating existing antitrust laws and prosecuting individuals within these companies. In 2018 she wrote an op-ed emphasizing how markets become increasingly concentrated when certain firms gain too much power ,have information advantages over competitors, or discourage innovation and entrepreneurship.
The presence of two Democrats at the FTC will give advocates pushing next-generation digital policies a powerful majority around which they can rally support — while giving opponents uncertain footing moving forward. Moreover, her departure is a stark reminder that fierce debates over anticompetitive conduct in large internet platforms will continue long after Wilson leaves office later this month.