Featured Expert Column:
Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission
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.
Featured Expert Column: Antitrust & Competition Policy — Federal Trade Commission
By M. Sean Royall, a Partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, with Richard H. Cunningham, Of Counsel in the firm’s Denver, CO office.*
Ed. Note: This is Mr. Royall’s debut column as the WLF Legal Pulse‘s new Antitrust & Competition Policy, FTC “Featured Expert Contributor.” WLF recognizes and appreciates former FTC Featured Expert Contributor Andrea Murino‘s four years of serving in that pro bono position.
On June 5th, 2017, the Supreme Court held in Kokesh v. SEC that disgorgement is a “penalty” subject to a five-year statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 2462. With that ruling, the Court explicitly rejected the long-standing assertion of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it possesses authority to reach back indefinitely when seeking the disgorgement of ill-gotten gains. While the Kokesh opinion explicitly limits its holding to disgorgement “as it is applied in SEC enforcement proceedings,”1 the Court’s logic extends to disgorgement actions brought by other agencies proceeding under analogous statutory authority, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Continue reading
By Andrew J. Morris, a Partner with Morvillo LLP. Mr. Morris authored a March 10, 2017 WLF Legal Backgrounder, Is the Clock Running out on SEC’s Unchecked Pursuit of Disgorgement Penalties?
In Kokesh v. Securities and Exchange Commission, the US Supreme Court ruled that SEC actions for disgorgement are governed by the five-year statute of limitations for penalties. This decision is a real blow to the SEC: It ends the practice of using disgorgement actions to obtain massive sanctions for conduct that took place many years in the past, outside the limitations period for penalties and forfeitures. The decision also invites defendants to make further challenges to SEC enforcement actions by litigating several related issues.
Implications for Enforcement Proceedings
The Court’s opinion, written by Justice Sotomayor, is summarized in a WLF Legal Pulse post authored last week by UCLA School of Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge. The gist of the decision is that disgorgement is a form of penalty because it involves a defendant who has violated a public law and must pay money to the United States Treasury; this contrasts with non-penalty cases, where the defendant has injured a particular victim and must pay compensation to that victim. And because disgorgement is a penalty, the Supreme Court held, disgorgement actions are covered by 28 U.S.C. § 2462, the five-year statute of limitations for penalties. Continue reading
Antitrust & Competition — US Department of Justice
Anthony W. Swisher, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP.
One of the principles underlying merger analysis has always been that mergers provide value to society. Historically, this idea has seen practical expression in a degree of humility on the part of the antitrust enforcement agencies, and a reluctance to intervene too hastily in a deal, lest they disrupt the benefits that might flow from it. Another practical expression of the recognition of merger-specific benefits is the availability of the efficiencies defense. Under the Horizontal Merger Guidelines, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission will consider the degree to which a deal will permit the merging parties to obtain efficiencies that would not be available to them individually. Continue reading
Federal agencies regularly use statistics to demonstrate their relevance and justify their exorbitant budgets. The Justice Department, for instance, boasts about the billions it brought in from False Claims Act lawsuits last year. The Environmental Protection Agency brags about the amount of fines and years in jail resulting from its enforcement actions in 2016. But the public is rarely provided concrete evidence of how those incarcerations and billions in fines, say, actually reduce contracting fraud or improve the environment.
So, too, with the Federal Trade Commission. In recent years, FTC hasn’t missed an opportunity to tout its statistical successes to the public and congressional appropriators. In the process of piling up the number of cases brought and fines extracted trumpeted by Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in her resignation press release, however, a critical limitation on FTC’s mission and authority has taken a backseat: the need to prove consumer harm. Continue reading
Susan E. Dudley is Director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, which she founded in 2009, and a distinguished professor of practice in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. From 2007 to 2009, she served as the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
WLF Legal Pulse: As promised, Congress and the Administration have quickly gotten to work reconsidering and removing a host of federal regulations while also setting the stage for a much different approach to regulation. Let’s first talk about what Congress is doing.
Professor Dudley: Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA), Congress has 60 legislative days after a regulation is published to vote to disapprove it. The procedures for disapproval are streamlined (including requiring a simple majority in the Senate) and if a rule is disapproved, the agency cannot issue something substantially similar. Continue reading
Featured Expert Contributor — Antitrust & Competition, U.S. Department of Justice
Anthony W. Swisher, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP
In April of this year President Obama issued an executive order designed to “protect American consumers and workers and encourage competition in the U.S. economy … .” The order aimed to expand competition policy beyond just the Justice Department Antitrust Division (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and encouraged every federal agency to consider ways to enhance competition when drafting and enforcing each given agency’s regulations. A notable element of the President’s executive order was the promotion of competition in labor markets. The order asserted that the economic growth that flows from competitive markets “creates opportunity for American workers,” and that anticompetitive practices can reduce those opportunities. Continue reading