U.S. FTC’s Top Antitrust Official to Step Down Amid Tech Probes

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s chief competition enforcer is stepping down after leading the effort to investigate technology companies, including Facebook Inc., for potential antitrust violations.

Bruce Hoffman, the director of the FTC’s bureau of competition, plans to leave in November after more than two years at the commission, the agency said Friday. FTC Chairman Joe Simons intends to appoint Hoffman’s deputy, Ian Conner, to replace him.

U.S. FTC’s Top Antitrust Official to Step Down Amid Tech Probes

“Bruce has done an outstanding job leading the FTC’s vigorous antitrust enforcement efforts,” Simons said. “His keen insight and tireless work have benefited American consumers by strengthening and advancing the commission’s competition agenda.”

Hoffman leaves as the agency is conducting a broad antitrust investigation into Facebook. Hoffman helped create the FTC’s technology task force, which is looking at conduct in the industry as well as past mergers that the agency could seek to unwind. The FTC didn’t say where he’s going.

The Justice Department also intends to investigate Facebook, meaning the social-media giant is facing parallel probes by two federal agencies over whether it has harmed competition in violation of antitrust laws.

As competition chief, Hoffman is also overseeing two pending merger investigations that are being closely followed by investors: Illumina Inc.’s proposed takeover of Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. and Roche Holding AG’s deal for Spark Therapeutics Inc.

Hoffman led the bureau’s successful monopoly lawsuit against Qualcomm Inc. In May, a federal judge ruled the company violated antitrust laws by abusing its dominant position in the market for cellphone chips to exact excessive licensing fees from phone makers. The case is on appeal.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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