Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Trade Regulation Tidbits

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Darius Sturmer, and John W. Arden.

News, updates, and observations:

 The nomination of Christine Varney as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division on January 22 “seems to confirm expectations that corporate mergers and marketing practices will be more closely scrutinized under the Obama administration than they were under that of George W. Bush,” according to a February 2 article in Financial Week. The article (“Obama’s pick for antitrust boss signals tougher stance on deals”) quotes antitrust attorneys stating that Varney was an especially aggressive enforcer of antitrust law as an FTC Commissioner during the Clinton administration. “Ms. Varney will likely bring change in both merger and non-merger antitrust enforcement,” focusing on mergers that affect innovation, produce vertical integration, and involve privacy issues, wrote Sean Gates and Tej Srimushnam of Morrison and Foerster in a letter to clients. Carl Hittinger of DLA Piper noted that the Varney nomination was very much in line with President Obama’s campaign promise to “reinvigorate antitrust enforcement.” Hittinger predicted that the unprecedented appointment of a former FTC Commissioner to the Justice Department post would help settle “turf wars” between the two federal antitrust enforcement entities.

 Two of the top officials at the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection will be leaving the agency. Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Lydia Parnes will be leaving, after 27 years, to return to private practice. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati announced that Parnes will join the firm in March as a partner in its consumer regulatory practice. Eileen Harrington, one of the two deputy directors, was to assume the role of Acting Director of the bureau upon Parnes’ departure. Mary Beth Richards, also a deputy director at the Bureau of Consumer Protection, will be leaving the agency to return to the Federal Communications Commission. Mary K. Engle, currently Associate Director in the Bureau’s Division of Advertising Practices, will serve as Acting Deputy Director.

 The 57th Annual Spring Meeting of the American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law, will be held March 25-27, 2009 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C. The meeting will feature more than 40 sessions, covering all aspects of U.S. antitrust law, as well as providing substantial coverage of consumer protection law and non-U.S. competition law issues. Once again, the program will present key agency enforcers from the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice Antitrust Division, State Attorneys’ General offices, and the European Commission. Further information on the program and speakers is available here from the ABA Section of Antitrust Law.

 The Federal Trade Commission has extended—from January 30 to March 2, 2009—the deadline for public comments related to proposed revisions of its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. The comment period was extended in response to requests from a number of trade associations. In November 2008, the Commission proposed revising its guides for endorsement and testimonial advertising practices to state that non-typical testimonials on a key aspect of the advertised product should be accompanied by clear and conspicuous disclosure of generally expected results when the advertiser does not possess adequate substantiation for the representation. The agency also proposed changes to its guidance with respect to expert endorsements. The Guides appear at CCH Trade Regulation Reporter ¶39,038. Comments on the proposed revisions should refer to “Endorsement Guides Review, Project No. P034520” and should be delivered to the Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex S), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N,W., Washington, D.C. Comments may be filed in electronic form here at https://secure.commentworks.com/ftc-endorsements/

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