FTC Vet Thomas Pahl To Lead The FTC’s Consumer Protection Arm

There’s a new top cop on the advertising regulation beat.

Attorney Thomas Pahl will fill Jessica Rich’s shoes as acting director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Acting FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen named Pahl to his new post on Wednesday, the day after it was announced Rich would be stepping down.

Pahl has a solid DC pedigree. He served as managing counsel to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under former President Obama and as assistant director of the Division of Advertising Practices and the Division of Financial Practices under the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Most recently, he’s been working as an attorney focused on financial protection issues.

“Tom’s career demonstrates his continuing commitment to protecting consumers through active enforcement and advocacy that promotes a free and honest marketplace,” Ohlhausen said in a statement.

Pahl is known to be a proponent of deregulation, which dovetails with Ohlhausen’s stance on “regulatory humility.” Rather than running to enforce regulation, Ohlhausen, and likely Pahl, would view it as the FTC’s role to first determine whether there is actually potential harm occurring.

Pahl’s past experience with the CFPB and FTC provides him with a broad perspective and expertise in the laws and regulatory framework that relate to financial practices, said Ron Urbach, chairman of Davis & Gilbert LLP.

What this likely means for the future of the Bureau of Consumer Protection is “clearer allocation of roles and responsibilities between the FTC and the CFPB,” as well as a focus at the FTC “on ensuring that consumers’ financial relationships are protected,” Urbach said.

What it also likely means is a more traditionalist approach to consumer protection with less focus on regulation and enforcement.

But it’s “too early to tell whether we will see a less activist FTC,” Urbach said. “If you define activist by number of cases or actions brought, the numbers may be the same. It may just be that the types of cases are different.”

It’s unclear how long Pahl will remain in his new post or if he’ll be appointed permanent director.

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