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Tech Oversight Project Report: An Exit Interview for FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson

Mar 31, 2023

View the full report here


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, The Tech Oversight Project slammed FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson for her hypocritical resignation and history of circumventing Congress, conflicts of interest, and upending longstanding norms at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

In Commissioner Wilson’s letter of resignation, she falsely blamed FTC Chair Lina Khan’s leadership as the reason for her departure. She said that a promised return to normalcy came to an “abrupt halt” when Chair Khan arrived in June 2021. She added to the false narratives by going on to say that she refused to give Khan “legitimacy by remaining,” that Khan had a “disregard for the law,” and attempted to circumvent Congress.

Let’s be clear: Not only are Commissioner Wilson’s claims bunk, they ignore her tenure as Chief of Staff of the FTC under Chair Tim Muris, which was riddled with conflicts of interest, sweetheart deals for Big Tobacco, and the brand of activism she railed against in her exit letter. 

Highlights from FTC Commissioner Wilson’s career as Chief of Staff are below, and the full report can be found here.

As Chief of Staff under former FTC Chair Muris, Christine Wilson steered an aggressive FTC agenda that undermines her claims about current FTC Chair Lina Khan:

  • From 2001 to 2004, Wilson served as Chief of Staff to FTC Chair Tim Muris, who surprised critics by pursuing an aggressive agenda that included going after drug companies that tried to suppress generic competition, investigating hospital mergers and blocking anti-competitive patents.
  • Under Muris and Wilson, the FTC conducted one of “the most exhaustive” examinations of merger proposals and represented “the greatest hurdle” for businesses.
  • Under Wilson’s leadership, the Antitrust Bulletin said Muris came into the FTC with “an activist pro-consumer agenda’ and used its enforcement tools “to challenge abuses, especially in the important health care and high-tech industries.”
  • While Wilson and Muris worked at the FTC, Muris “tried to fire activist staff members.”

As Chief of Staff under FTC Chair Muris, the FTC was frequently embroiled in blatant  conflicts of interest, which undermine her false claims regarding Chair Khan:

  • Before joining the FTC, Chair Muris had argued on behalf of a credit reporting agency that the Fair Credit Reporting Act was unconstitutional, despite the fact that under Wilson’s leadership, the FTC was responsible for enforcing the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
  • Muris and Wilson’s pick to lead the consumer protection bureau, J. Howard Beales, was an economist who has asserted in academic papers that there is no link between cigarette advertisements and smoking among teenagers, despite the FTC’s authority to protect consumers from deceptive ads from Big Tobacco.
  • Muris and Wilson’s pick to lead the Bureau of Economics, David Scheffman, worked for the tobacco industry, represented them in court, and argued that cigarette makers never conspired to suppress the development of healthier products.
  • After Muris and Wilson hired two former Big Tobacco leaders, the FTC Approved R.J. Reynolds Tobacco’s Purchase Of Brown & Williamson Tobacco.

As Chief of Staff, Wilson and Muris sought to circumvent Congress by dividing up enforcement authority of key industries without an act of Congress:

  • In an effort to circumvent Congress, in 2002, the DOJ and FTC conspired to divide up merger enforcement authority over key industries like Health Care, Oil, Natural Gas, Electric Power, Computer Hardware and Biotech Companies.
  • That plan was foiled once accounts of the effort leaked to the press and drew sharp rebukes from the Senate.
  • Then-sitting FTC Commissioner Mozelle Thompson disagreed with the agreement, saying it amounted to “horse trading” and would “deprive consumers of the Commission’s independence, expertise, and knowledge.”
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