New Slate of Commissioners Should Elevate FTC’s Consideration of the First Amendment

FTC_Man_Controlling_TradeThe U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow, February 14, 2018, on the nominations of a new Chairman and three new Commissioners to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In recent years, FTC has become the primary national regulator of consumer data privacy and security, a responsibility that accords the Commission a staggering amount of influence over an American economy increasingly fueled by information.

When utilizing that authority over how businesses treat consumer data, the Commission has accorded little or no regard to the First Amendment. Data is speech, a reality that the incoming Chairman and Commissioners must incorporate into consumer-protection enforcement under § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. Continue reading “New Slate of Commissioners Should Elevate FTC’s Consideration of the First Amendment”

With “LabMD” Decision Looming, FTC Workshop Delves into Privacy & Data Security Harms

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Guest Commentary

By Douglas H. Meal, Michelle Visser, and David T. Cohen, Partners with Ropes & Gray LLP.

For years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the primary consumer protection agency in the United States, has brought enforcement actions against companies on the basis that their alleged failure to use specified privacy and data security measures was purportedly an “unfair” business practice prohibited by § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.  But FTC in fact has no authority under § 5 to declare a practice “unfair” unless, among other things, it causes or is likely to cause substantial, unavoidable injury to consumers that is not outweighed by countervailing benefits.

What (if anything), then, is a “substantial” injury in the privacy and data security context, how should its likelihood be measured, and how should one measure the benefits and costs of particular practices? Continue reading “With “LabMD” Decision Looming, FTC Workshop Delves into Privacy & Data Security Harms”

Federal Court’s Embrace of FTC Data-Breach Settlements as “Common Law” Treads on Due Process

d of washingtonThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has developed a well-known penchant for using individually negotiated settlement agreements and consent decrees to announce for the first time what qualifies as “unfair” or “deceptive” conduct under the FTC Act. In the data-privacy arena, FTC views these enforcement actions (and the resulting consent decrees) as a source of “common law” that places the business community on sufficient notice of what data-security practices § 5 of the FTC Act requires.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington recently ratified that view in a controversial ruling, Veridian Credit Union v. Eddie Bauer. The case arose following a 2016 cyberattack on Eddie Bauer’s network that compromised customers’ payment-card data. Veridian Credit Union, whose cardholders had their data stolen after shopping at Eddie Bauer, brought suit under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which like § 5 of the FTC Act also allows courts to award treble damages to private plaintiffs who are injured by “unfair” or “deceptive” acts. Veridian alleged that Eddie Bauer’s failure to adopt data-security measures that FTC has required in other cases constitutes an “unfair” practice under the Washington CPA. Continue reading “Federal Court’s Embrace of FTC Data-Breach Settlements as “Common Law” Treads on Due Process”

FTC Pharma Workshop Focuses on Supply Chain Issues and “Gamesmanship” of FDA Regulation

Featured Expert Column: Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission

06633 - Royall, M. Sean ( Dallas )By M. Sean Royall, a Partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with Richard H. Cunningham, Of Counsel in the firm’s Denver, CO office, and Abiel Garcia, an Associate Attorney in the firm’s Los Angeles, CA office.

On November 8, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission hosted a workshop examining competitive dynamics in the pharmaceutical sector.  Participants in the workshop included professors Michael A. Carrier, Aaron Kesselheim, Stephen Schondelmeyer, Neeraj Sood, Erin Fox, and Rena Conti; representatives from industry interest groups Mark Merritt and Todd Ebert; consumer advocate David Mitchell; economists Adam Fein and Hal Singer; FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb; and FTC Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen.

While FTC workshops are informal and have no binding effect on the policies of the agency, they frequently foreshadow areas of future investigative or enforcement focus.  Participants’ comments generally affirmed that areas of long-standing FTC activity in the pharmaceutical sector, including reverse payments and merger enforcement, are likely to remain areas of ongoing focus.  Two notable new issues also emerged:  scrutiny of the industry’s distribution system and potential abuse of FDA regulatory processes to inhibit generic entry.  In addition, Dr. Gottlieb announced three new FDA initiatives to facilitate generic entry into pharmaceutical markets. Continue reading “FTC Pharma Workshop Focuses on Supply Chain Issues and “Gamesmanship” of FDA Regulation”

Third Circuit Antitrust Decision Makes Pharmaceutical Patent Disputes Nearly Impossible to Settle

FTC_Man_Controlling_TradeThe U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 FTC v. Actavis, Inc. decision held that “reverse payment” settlement agreements—in which a drug company suing a generic competitor for patent infringement pays the alleged infringer a substantial amount of cash to settle the litigation—are subject to antitrust scrutiny.  The Court reasoned that such reverse payments are unusual and may indicate that the generic company is really being paid not to compete.

An August 21, 2017 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stretched the Actavis holding far beyond anything intended by the Supreme Court.  If the appeals court’s decision in In re: Lipitor Antitrust Litigation is allowed to stand, it may become virtually impossible for drug companies to settle patent-infringement litigation. Continue reading “Third Circuit Antitrust Decision Makes Pharmaceutical Patent Disputes Nearly Impossible to Settle”

FTC’s Action against “Repetitive” Filing of Citizen Petitions Reflects Expanding Pharma-Sector Enforcement Program

Featured Expert Column: Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission

06633 - Royall, M. Sean ( Dallas )By M. Sean Royall, a Partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with Richard H. Cunningham, Of Counsel in the firm’s Denver, CO office, and Andrew B. Blumberg, an Associate Attorney in the firm’s Dallas, TX office.

On February 7th, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint alleging that Shire ViroPharma Inc. (Shire) violated the antitrust laws by filing sham citizen petitions in an effort to forestall generic competition for its branded prescription drug, Vancocin.  The case is another stepping stone in the agency’s steadily expanding efforts to police what it views as potential antitrust abuses in the pharmaceutical sector. Continue reading “FTC’s Action against “Repetitive” Filing of Citizen Petitions Reflects Expanding Pharma-Sector Enforcement Program”

FTC Takes a Commendable First Step Toward Reducing the Burden of Consumer-Protection Investigations

Featured Expert Column:
Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission

06633 - Royall, M. Sean ( Dallas )By M. Sean Royall, a Partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with Richard H. Cunningham, Of Counsel in the firm’s Denver, CO office, and Ashley M. Rogers, an Associate Attorney in the firm’s Dallas, TX office.

On July 17, 2017, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen announced internal process reforms that aim to “streamline information requests and improve transparency” in the agency’s consumer-protection investigations.  According to the announcement, going forward the Bureau of Consumer Protection will:

  • provide “plain language” descriptions of the civil investigative demand (CID) process the agency uses as its primary tool for gathering information during investigations on a compulsory basis;
  • provide “more detailed” descriptions of the scope and purpose of investigations;
  • limit the relevant time periods covered by CID informational requests;
  • “significantly” reduce the length and complexity of CID instructions for providing electronically stored data; and
  • increase the time available to respondents to respond to agency CIDs.

Continue reading “FTC Takes a Commendable First Step Toward Reducing the Burden of Consumer-Protection Investigations”