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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FTC restructures rulemaking as justices debate its limits on consumer redress

Federal Issues FTC Agency Rule-Making & Guidance U.S. Supreme Court Enforcement Consumer Redress

Federal Issues

On March 25, FTC acting Chairwoman Rebecca Kelly Slaughter announced a new rulemaking group within the FTC’s Office of the General Counsel created to streamline and strengthen the Commission’s rulemaking process and coordinate rulemaking among various units. The FTC’s current rulemaking process is decentralized, according to Slaughter, with individual bureaus and divisions responsible for particular rules. “The new structure will aid the planning, development, and execution of rulemaking,” she said, noting that with the “new group in place, the FTC is poised to strengthen existing rules and to undertake new rulemakings to prohibit unfair or deceptive practices and unfair methods of competition.” Slaughter also emphasized the critical importance of effective rulemaking “given the risk that the Supreme Court substantially curtails the FTC’s ability to seek consumer redress under Section 13(b)” through enforcement actions.

As previously covered by InfoBytes, last year the Court granted review in two cases that had reached different conclusions regarding the availability of restitution under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act: (i) the 9th Circuit’s decision in FTC v. AMG Capital Management (covered by InfoBytes here), which upheld a $1.3 billion judgment against the petitioners for allegedly operating a deceptive payday lending scheme and concluded that a district court may grant any ancillary relief under the FTC Act, including restitution; and (ii) the 7th Circuit’s ruling in FTC v. Credit Bureau Center (covered by InfoBytes here), which held that Section 13(b) does not give the FTC power to order restitution. The Court consolidated the two cases and will decide whether the FTC can demand equitable monetary relief in civil enforcement actions under Section 13(b) of the FTC Act.

The same day, Acting Chairwoman Slaughter released the FTC’s 2020 Annual Highlights. Among other things, it discusses the Commission’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to educate consumers about Covid-19-related scams, as well as businesses’ responsibilities concerning honest advertising.

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