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Senate panel sets confirmation hearing for four FTC nominees

© Reuters. The Federal Trade Commission building is seen in Washington© Reuters. The Federal Trade Commission building is seen in Washington

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee set confirmation hearings next week for three Republicans and one Democrat nominated to the Federal Trade Commission, the panel said on Wednesday.

The hearing was set for Feb. 14 for Republicans Joe Simons, tapped to chair the FTC, along with Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson, who have been nominated to be commissioners. The panel will also hear from Rohit Chopra, a Democrat who has also been nominated to the commission.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer has recommended that the White House nominate one of his top aides, Rebecca Slaughter, to the second Democratic seat.

The FTC works with the U.S. Justice Department to enforce antitrust law. The agency has five commissioners but only three can be from one political party.

Simons, a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, was a director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition from 2001 to 2003.

In his questionnaire on the committee’s website, Simons noted an FTC study that found a 30 percent failure rate in some remedies aimed at ensuring a merger did not lead to higher prices. “That rate is too high and needs to be lowered substantially or, ideally, zeroed out altogether,” he wrote.

Simons also noted concerns that the FTC and Justice Department have been too quick to approve mergers, and said the agency needs to determine if those complaints have merit.

Phillips graduated from Stanford Law School in 2005. He is also a veteran of the two major law firms.

Chopra, was an official on the Consumer Financial Protection Board, and is currently at the advocacy group Consumer Federation of America.

Wilson, a former chief of staff to former FTC Chairman Tim Muris, is a senior vice president for regulatory and international affairs at Delta Air Lines Inc (NYSE:DAL) and is a veteran of the law firms Kirkland & Ellis LLP and O’Melveny & Myers LLP, according to her LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD).com account.

The agency is currently headed by acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen, a Republican, with Democrat Terrell McSweeny the only other commissioner. Both of their terms have expired.

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