Thursday, April 03, 2008

FTC 2008 Annual Report Describes Agency Mission, Highlights Accomplishments

This posting was written by Darius Sturmer, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

Outgoing FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras issued the Commission’s 2008 Annual Report at the American Bar Association’s Section of Antitrust Law Spring Meeting on March 28 in Washington, D.C.

The report, entitled “The FTC in 2008: A Force for Consumers and Competition,” described the agency’s competition and consumer protection missions and highlighted numerous accomplishments of the previous year.

Mergers and Acquisitions

The report cited the agency’s filing of federal court actions to block three mergers; a federal appellate court’s upholding of the FTC’s order requiring Chicago Bridge & Iron to divest cryogenic storage tank assets acquired from competitor Pitt-Des Moines in 2001; the Commission’s attainment of consent orders requiring significant divestitures in transactions such as Mylan’s acquisition of Merck’s generic subsidiary; and the FTC’s decision that Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Corporation’s acquisition of Highland Park Hospital enabled the corporation’s hospitals to raise prices through an exercise of market power.

The FTC also policed anticompetitive conduct in the health care, energy, real estate, and high-tech industries, with a particular focus on competitor collaboration and exclusionary conduct, according to the report. In one important case, the agency filed a new action against Cephalon, Inc., alleging the drug maker entered into illegal agreements to keep generic formulations of its branded product Provigil off the market.

Other Enforcement Initiatives

Among other significant enforcement initiatives were: (1) actions to stop deceptive lending, debt negotiation and settlement, debt collection, mortgage, and subprime credit schemes that prey on financially-strapped consumers; (2) cases to protect consumers’ personal and financial data from technology-driven threats during its collection, storage, use, and disposal; (3) continued enforcement efforts in the technology area against spyware, adware, and deceptive spam practices; (4) the filing of lawsuits against defendants who made deceptive health, safety, and weight loss claims; and (5) a major crackdown on Do Not Call violators, including six settlements against telemarketers that resulted in nearly $7.7 million in civil penalties.

Nonenforcement Issues

In addition to enforcement, the report noted that the agency held a public workshop on carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates as part of the review of the FTC Green Guides. The FTC also continued to grow and develop its Office of International Affairs, building on worldwide relationships to help the agency accomplish its laws enforcement and advocacy missions.

Further details regarding the former Chairman's presentation appears here on the FTC website. The 2008 Annual Report appears here.

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