FTC Names Consumer Advocate to Lead Consumer Protection Bureau

David C. Vladeck Was Director of Public Citizen

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Any doubt the Federal Trade Commission would get more aggressive on consumer and advertising issues in an Obama administration vanished today with the appointment of a 30-year veteran of the legal team at the advocacy group Public Citizen as director of the commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz named to the post David C. Vladeck, most recently a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where he co-directed the Institute for Public Representation. Before that, Mr. Vladeck spent nearly 30 years in the Public Citizen Litigation Group, including 10 years as director.

"It portends a much more aggressive approach by the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection," said Thomas Cohn, who recently joined the Venable law firm in New York after 17 years at the same FTC consumer-protection branch Mr. Vladeck will head.

"It's a wake-up call for a lot of different industries," Mr. Cohn said. "Looking at where Mr. Vladeck came from at Public Citizen, they have a very active docket in terms of litigation."

'A new era'
"We expect Mr. Vladeck will vigorously pursue, with Chairman Leibowitz's support, a serious consumer-protection agenda," Jeff Chester, executive director of the advocacy group Center for Digital Democracy, said in an e-mail and blog post. He cited financial products, privacy, online advertising, and food marketing to children and adolescents as areas that "will now get the intellectual and strategic attention they deserve" at the FTC.

"We are looking forward to a new era at the FTC," Mr. Chester said.

"I think it's great that we finally have a consumer-protection advocate in that position at the FTC," said Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. "I'm particularly hoping that he will pay special attention to advertising and marketing to children."

Much of Mr. Vladeck's impact will depend on how close his relationship with Mr. Leibowitz turns out to be, Mr. Cohn said. He said he expects marketing surrounding financial products to be among the highest priorities for Mr. Vladeck and Mr. Leibowitz in the early going, based on recent events.

Online-marketing and -privacy issues, too, already appear to be high on Mr. Leibowitz's agenda, said Mr. Cohn, whose firm filed comments last month regarding proposed FTC revisions to rules governing bloggers and online word-of-mouth marketing on behalf of nine industry groups, including the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Advertising Federation, the Direct Marketing Association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

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