Phillips, who’s worked on patent legislation, previously was an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore and later at Steptoe & Johnson LLP.
In January, President Donald Trump designated Maureen Ohlhausen, an Obama-era appointee, the acting chair of the FTC. Bloomberg spotlighted Simons in August as a leading candidate for FTC chairman. Simons did not immediately return a message Thursday seeking comment.
Simons can be expected to be questioned about data security at his confirmation hearing. The FTC’s Equifax Inc. data breach investigation—focusing on one of the largest hacks in U.S. history—is part of what the agency recently called an “unprecedented” set of cases and investigations for the coming year.
Meanwhile, the FTC is awaiting a ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit about a data security action against the defunct medical testing company LabMD. Ropes & Gray, representing the Georgia-based medical company, argued the FTC acted outside its authority in bringing the case. LabMD is suing two FTC lawyers for their roles in the enforcement action. The FTC this summer adopted a new indemnity policy to shield agency staff from personal liability in litigation.
Trump’s nominees to the FTC are sure to also face questions about calls to challenge market practices by big technology companies.
The acting director of the FTC’s competition bureau, Bruce Hoffman, addressed growing concerns this week at the Association of Corporation Counsel’s annual meeting in Washington, according to a Bloomberg Law report.
Federal regulators, he said, need a “coherent case that we could claim to a neutral and uninterested judge.” He added: “I’m very skeptical and leery of calls to change that and make it easier for us to win or to lower the standards that we impose on ourselves.”
Ohlhausen, speaking in September at Georgetown University Law Center’s global antitrust symposium, urged caution before any rush to impose greater restrictions in the technology market.
“I am neither a champion of today’s leading internet firms nor their foe. I have supported enforcement against a number of our biggest technology companies when I believed they violated the laws that the FTC enforces and I have opposed enforcement when our investigations have not provided sufficient support for legal action,” Ohlhausen said. “Likewise, I have vigorously supported policy positions that they sometimes like and sometimes hate.”
Obama’s last FTC chair, Edith Ramirez, joined Hogan Lovells in September as co-leader of the firm’s competition and economic regulation group. Jon Leibowitz, an earlier Obama-era FTC chairman, joined Davis Polk & Wardwell in 2013.
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