WASHINGTON — The revolving door between the Federal Trade Commission and big firms is spinning briskly with news that former chairman Jon Leibowitz is joining Davis Polk & Wardwell as a partner and Deborah Feinstein will leave Arnold & Porter to head the agency's Bureau of Competition. In addition, Jonathan Nuechterlein, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, will serve as the FTC's general counsel.
For Leibowitz, who served as chair of the FTC from 2009 until February and as a commissioner from 2004-09, this will be his first stint as a law firm partner. "It's something new and interesting and challenging, and I think it will be really enjoyable," he said in an interview.
He's joining Davis Polk's 26-lawyer Washington office next month, where he'll focus on antitrust and privacy issues. He previously worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and as a government relations executive at the Motion Picture Association of America. He called Davis Polk "one of America's great law firms," and said the firm is "making its Washington office a destination practice, and I thought I could complement that."
Feinstein, who was the head of Arnold & Porter's antitrust practice, is a well-known and much-lauded antitrust lawyer — Recorder sibling publication The National Law Journal named her one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in 2010. As director of the Bureau of Competition, she'll serve as the FTC's top antitrust cop, replacing Richard Feinstein, a former partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner.
Her departure from Arnold & Porter comes six months after her colleague, William Baer, left the firm to head the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. That the pair has a well-established working relationship is good news for the two agencies, which share responsibilities for civil antitrust enforcement. But for Arnold & Porter, it's something of a blow to lose two of its antitrust stars.
"I'm feeling an equal measure of pride and regret," said firm chair Thomas Milch, who noted that both Feinstein and Baer "grew up in the firm." But he said Arnold & Porter is also "blessed with an incredibly deep bench in the antitrust area."
Nuechterlein, the FTC's new general counsel, previously chaired Wilmer's communications, privacy and Internet law practice group. A former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, he's a government veteran, previously serving as deputy general counsel for the Federal Communications Commission and an assistant to the solicitor general at the Department of Justice.
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez announced other senior staff positions as well. Jessica Rich will head the Bureau of Consumer Protection. She's worked at the agency for more than 20 years, and since 2012, has been associate director in charge of the Division of Financial Practices. Rich replaces David Vladeck, who returned to Georgetown University Law Center.
Ramirez kept other key officials in place. Former Howard University School of Law professor Andrew Gavil will continue as director of policy planning, and Randolph Tritell will stay on as director of the Office of International Affairs. Jeanne Bumpus will continue to serve as director of the Office of Congressional Relations.
Ramirez named Heather Hippsley as her chief of staff. For the past 10 years, she's been assistant director for the Division of Advertising Practices.
Jenna Greene is a senior reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate.