Kicking off the ABA Antitrust Section's Consumer Protection Conferenceat Georgetown the end of last week, David Vladeck gave his views of the FTC's Consumer Protection Bureau after being on the job "77 hours and 16 minutes." And he had much of interest to say.
He believes he was chosen by Chairman Leibowitz to run the Bureau because he is an experienced litigator with a background in bringing test case litigation and also because of an interest in someone with "vision" and "fresh eyes." (For more on his background, see our post here.)
Vladeck was very clear about the challenges he faces and the need for immediate action due to the economic climate and the top priority given to the economic challenges that many consumers face. The new Bureau Director gave a preview of his strategic plans. He plans to keep up the existing aggressive pace in investigations and engage in increased policy and rule making. We will see more cases related to economic fraud, and this will continue until the economy turns around. He plans to "step back and reexamine the privacy approach" because the "current approach is not working." He is concerned that notice and consent does not work because consumers do not understand privacy policies and that focusing on consumer harm is inadequate because there are privacy interests that are felt but cannot be quantified. Vladeck is looking to craft a more coherent policy and will want help from the bar and businesses in creating solutions. He will take a "hard look" at certain practices, including behavioral advertising and advertising to vulnerable groups, such as kids. He believes strongly that the FTC "ought to be placed on equal footing with other consumer protection agencies," including APA rulemaking authority that does not "tie [the agency] in knots," civil penalty authority, and independent civil litigation authority. Vladeck is also "proud to inherit the FTC's open door policy" of offering parties the opportunity to meet with him and his senior staff. He clearly has the energy and drive to match Chairman Leibowitz's and we expect to see a very active Bureau.