All Hands Not On Deck at Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission has been operating at half-strength for more than a year and it’s unclear whether the Trump administration will bring the FTC back to full strength.

At full strength, the FTC has five presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed commissioners.

Right now, it has only two sitting members, acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen (R) and Democratic Commissioner Terrell McSweeny. The administration has only nominated four new FTC commissioners and both Ohlhausen and McSweeny are expected to leave when the nominees are confirmed by the full Senate.

Ohlhausen has been nominated to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Claims.

The current slate of nominees is made up of Joseph Simons (R), who’s tapped for the chairmanship, Rohit Chopra (D), Noah Phillips (R), and Christine Wilson (R). The nominees indicated they would continue an active enforcement policy in the health-care arena.

For the pharmaceutical industry, this means reviewing mergers for anticompetitive effect. The new commissioners, once confirmed, aren’t likely to change that direction.

The FTC is also likely to continue aggressively policing other anticompetitive schemes in the pharmaceutical industry, such as patent litigation settlements that delay the entry of cheaper, generic drugs to the market.

If the nominees are confirmed without adding a fifth, the FTC would have a 3-1 Republican-Democrat ratio. This would be unusual because traditionally administrations present a full slate of nominees. Senate Democrats are pressing Trump for a fifth, Democratic nominee to round out the group.

Read my full story on the FTC nominees and the likely direction of the new commission here.

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