Edith Ramirez will be named to chair the Federal Trade Commission, USA TODAY confirmed Thursday.
President Obama plans to appoint his former law school classmate and friend who worked on his presidential campaigns to head up the government agency. She has been an FTC commissioner since 2010.
The FTC has authority over antitrust and consumer protection matters, such as deceptive advertising claims and anti-pyramid scheme enforcement.
The past few years, Ramirez has focused on intellectual property law in the technology arena and has also worked on cases to help protect vulnerable consumer communities, such as the poor and those who don’t speak English.
Jodie Bernstein, who headed the FTC’s consumer protection bureau during the Clinton administration, says Ramirez will continue to be a strong advocate for Hispanics. While at the FTC, Ramirez has led outreach to the Hispanic community and made fraud that targeted Hispanics a priority.
“She’s taken positions that enhance consumer rights and has been an outstanding commissioner,” says Bernstein.
Ramirez would replace Chairman Jon , Leibowitz, who has been outspoken on the issues of privacy, such as tracking of consumer behavior by websites, and what’s known as “pay for delay,” the practice of brand-name pharmaceutical companies paying generic competitors to postpone their entry into the market.
The FTC’s consumer protection bureau was considered very aggressive under its recent chief, David Vladeck, who prioritized financial fraud and advertising cases, such as the high-profile action against Skechers on its toning claims.
Ramirez will head a four-member commission that has two Republicans, including conservative Joshua Wright, and two Democrats, including activist Julie Brill.
Until President Obama names a fifth member, the sharp ideological divides will force Ramirez “to use all of her intellect, tact and preparedness in problematic cases,” says Steve Newborn, who heads the antitrust practice at Weil Gotshal & Manges.
Recently, the FTC has been criticized for its January antitrust deal with Google that some thought too lenient. Some of the issues likely to face the FTC under Ramirez include the interplay of patents and antitrust. One example is how companies could buy up patents to make it harder for new companies to enter even fast-changing markets, such as high-tech, says Newborn, a former FTC mergers chief.
Prior to joining the commission, Ramirez was a partner in the Los Angeles office of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, where she handled varied business litigation, specializing in intellectual property, antitrust and unfair competition.
She also has extensive appellate litigation experience. From 1993 to 1996, Ramirez was an associate at the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles and clerked for the Judge Alfred Goodwin in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Ramirez has been active in a variety of community service roles, including serving as vice president on the board of commissioners for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation’s largest municipal utility. Ramirez graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in history and received her law degree from Harvard, where she served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. She was editor of the review in 1990 and 1991, when Obama was its president.