About a year after stepping down as commissioner of the U.S. Fair Trade Commission, Republican Joshua Wright has been appointed to lead President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition team on the FTC, MLex reported.
The former FTC commissioner, who is currently a professor at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, will be in charge of recommending candidates to fill key positions, including the assistant attorney general for antitrust at the Justice Department, the FTC chair and a vacant commissioner seat.
Known as the agency’s most conservative member and a "frequent dissenter to antitrust enforcement actions," according to the Wall Street Journal, Wright’s career as an academic and FTC commissioner hasn’t been without controversy with critics pointing their fingers at his alleged ties to Google Inc. (GOOGL).
Several media outlets in the past reported on the funding he received from the Silicon Valley giant for "at least four academic papers, all of which supported Google’s position that it did not violate antitrust laws when it favored its own sites in search engine requests and restricted advertisers from running ads on competitors,” according to the Intercept.
After joining the FTC in 2013, Wright recused himself from evaluating cases related to Google but, since its resignation last year, he has been appointed “Senior of Counsel” at one of the tech company’s law firms, Washington D.C.-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the Intercept reported.
Now many wonder whether his relationship with Google will shape the FTC during the next administration, as the agency is responsible for policing business practices and guaranteeing a fair competition.
Wright, also the director of the Global Antitrust Institute at George Mason University, is critical of theories that make market concentration and mergers responsible for higher prices and weak economic growth.
In April, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report cautioning about increasing industry concentration and record levels of merger and acquisition activity, with a consequently negative effect on the economy. “When firms take action to impede competition, through anticompetitive mergers, exclusionary conduct, collusive agreements with rivals, or rent-seeking regulation to restrict entry,” the report reads, “their profitability may increase, but at the cost of even greater reductions in consumer welfare and societal benefits.”
But in a New York Times op-ed published this week, Wright argued that the Council’s conclusions are unfounded. “(M)ergers between competitors do not often lead to market power but do often generate significant benefits for consumers — lower prices and higher quality,” he wrote. “Sometimes mergers harm consumers, but those instances are relatively rare.”
In addition to heading the transition team focused on the FTC, according to MLex, Wright himself may be in contention for one of the vacant positions in the commission.