Trump Pick to Lead FTC Confirmed by Senate Amid Facebook Probe

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(Bloomberg) -- Washington lawyer Joseph Simons, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Trade Commission, was confirmed by the Senate as the agency tackles high-profile consumer-protection cases like the Facebook Inc. data scandal.

The Senate confirmed Simons late Thursday along with four other nominees -- Republicans Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson and Democrats Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Slaughter.

The vote will bring a full slate of commissioners to the FTC, which has been operating with just two since Trump’s election - Acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen and Terrell McSweeny, a Democrat, both of whom will step down. The agency has been down at least one commissioner since Republican commissioner Joshua Wright resigned in 2015.

Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the FTC, said he looks forward to working with the new commissioners on robocalling, privacy and data security.

“The FTC is a critically important agency focused on ensuring both consumer protection and fair competition in the marketplace," Thune said.

The FTC enforces unfair and deceptive practices against consumers and shares antitrust enforcement with the Justice Department, giving it authority over corporate mergers and anticompetitive conduct by companies.

During his confirmation process, Simons said he intended to look into criticism that the agency has been too lax in challenging mergers.

Simons, an antitrust lawyer who previously worked at law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, will take over the commission’s investigation into whether Facebook violated a 2011 privacy settlement with the agency when data on 87 million users was obtained by consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. The FTC is also investigating Equifax Inc. over the massive data breach at the company last year, and this week, it sued LendingClub Corp. for allegedly deceiving borrowers on loans.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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