Maureen Ohlhausen, who was until recently the the acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission, will join Baker Botts as partner and co-chair of the firm’s antitrust practice in the New Year, the firm announced Thursday.
In January President Donald Trump nominated Ohlhausen for a seat on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Ohlhausen said Thursday that she privately withdrew her nomination in October, having already begun her search for a law firm home at the end of the summer. She said that before her nomination she had intended to move into private practice after her FTC term ended.
“The nomination was a great honor, but when it became clear that I was unlikely to get confirmed before my [FTC] term ended, I began to look and went out into the market,” Ohlhausen said. “I started [talking to firms] when it was clear that there was no package of judges getting through in the summer.”
Ohlhausen served as an FTC commissioner for five years before she was tapped to oversee the agency as acting chair from January 2017 to May 2018. She first joined the FTC in the general counsel’s office in 1997 before leaving the directorship of the commission’s office of policy planning for a turn in private practice as partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer.
Ohlhausen said she preferred the “certainty” of moving into private practice now over the unpredictability of her nomination, adding that she viewed Baker Botts as a “terrific fit.” She said she was attracted to Baker Botts by the firm’s platform and her familiarity with many of its lawyers with whom she previously worked during her decades of public service.
“I have known Maureen for many years and worked with her very closely when we were both at the FTC,” said Steve Weissman, co-chair of Baker Botts antitrust practice, in a statement. “We are thrilled to welcome her as a co-chair to our global antitrust team, and know that clients will benefit from her unique insights and experience in this increasingly complex business environment.”
Ohlhausen’s addition bolsters Baker Botts’ buildup of its antitrust practice, particularly in Washington, in the preceding six months. Squire Patton Boggs’ D.C. team lost Mark Botti, co-chair of the firm’s antitrust practice, and Anthony Swisher, an antitrust partner, in June to Baker Botts. Last month, the firm recruited Hogan Lovells’ outgoing London managing partner, Matthew Levitt, who is an antitrust expert, to join its ranks in Brussels, and the firm snagged Sidley Austin’s Peter Huston in San Francisco. Huston is a former assistant chief in the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
In addition to growing the firm’s roster of antitrust all-stars, Ohlhausen also adds to its ranks of prominent right-leaning partners. Baker Botts tapped former Texas solicitor general Scott Keller, who fought against the Obama’s administration immigration policies on behalf of Texas, to run its U.S. Supreme Court and constitutional law practice in June.
Ohlhausen said she will also continue to build upon the legal scholarship she developed throughout her career as she moves into private practice. She said while she has friends in the think tank world, she prefers the “practicality” and ability to serve the needs of particular clients over the more theoretical work of think tanks.
Asked whether she would consider any future nominations similar to the one she just turned down, Ohlhausen said she is “very much focused” on her new opportunities at Baker Botts.