FTC staff said to withdraw from public appearances


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In a follow-up message two days later, Howard said any staff who were to attend public events should cancel those appearances.

“I would like to clarify that for all situations where staff are currently scheduled to organize a public event and therefore must contact the event organizers to withdraw their participation, the message they must convey is that they are sorry to not being able to participate anymore due to pressure questions at the FTC, ”she wrote.

An FTC spokesperson confirmed that the agency has canceled all public appearances by staff for now.

“The FTC is severely underfunded and in the midst of a massive surge in merger requests. It’s a time when everyone is on the bridge,” Howard said in a statement to POLITICO. “So the agency pushed the break on public speaking, events that are not focused on educating consumers to ensure staff time is used for maximum benefit and productivity. American public needs this agency to solve problems, not to speak on panels. “

The FTC, which enforces antitrust and consumer protection laws, has about 1,100 employees, fewer employees than the agency had at the start of the Reagan administration. Only about 40 of the agency’s lawyers deal with privacy and data security issues, the agency’s former chairman told Congress in 2019, unlike the UK, which has an agency of around 500 employees focused on confidentiality.

As recently as December, the FTC was discussing measures to deal with a possible cash shortage, including a salary freeze and reducing the number of lawsuits filed by the agency.

Since taking office three weeks ago, Khan has quickly started pushing her priorities forward, holding the first FTC public meeting in decades last week. In his opening commentary, Khan pledged to ensure transparency in the agency’s work and to hold open meetings “regularly”.

“As a democratic institution, we have a vital responsibility to connect our work with the people we serve,” she said. “Creating a regular public forum can allow us to learn from the honest consumers, workers and business owners we have a legislative mandate to protect. ”

The temporary moratorium on public appearances may hamper efforts to portray the agency as newly transparent.

Khan’s pledge to provide greater transparency to the FTC has met with some backlash from the agency’s two Republican commissioners, who criticized her for not providing sufficient notice of the proposed changes or permitting. public comments before these proposals are voted on.

The moratorium on public speaking has shaken up several upcoming conferences that often feature FTC staff, such as next week’s American Bar Association’s annual consumer protection conference, which takes place all over the world. every two years.

A professor at Columbia Law School and an advocate for stricter antitrust enforcement, Khan was confirmed as commissioner of the FTC on June 15. Within hours, the White House appointed her president of the agency.

The move surprised Capitol Hill, as the president normally announces whether a candidate is the FTC president’s choice before Senate confirmation to allow questions about the agency’s priorities. The appointment of the president does not require confirmation from the Senate; following the inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20, he chose FTC commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter as interim president.

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